Setting sail: East Carolina looks ahead to upcoming season
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 8, 2009 11:55 PM
GREENVILLE -- Sailing into different ports and ravaging opponents of victories won't be easy excursions for East Carolina this season.
Fellow swashbucklers are undoubtedly aware of the Pirates' thievery.
"We won't be able to sneak up on people this season," said fifth-year ECU senior Rob Kass during the team's annual media day Saturday.
He's right, mateys.
The Pirates are the hunted -- not the hunted -- after pilfering the Conference USA championship from their league brethren in 2008. ECU earned its first trip to the Liberty Bowl since 1995 and dropped a gut-wrenching loss to Kentucky.
"It's a different experience for this team, but I feel like we'll be able to handle it very well," said Kass of defending the CUSA crown. "Coach (Skip) Holtz says each year that the team has a one-year life expectancy. Last year was last year's team and this year is this year's team."
Returning on deck are 55 lettermen, including a combined 17 starters on offense and defense. Sixth-year senior Patrick Pinkney, a Johnny Unitas Award nominee, returns to command the ship and hopefully steer the Pirates to an unprecedented fourth consecutive bowl game.
Also back is senior defensive end C.J. Wilson, who is the preseason CUSA defensive player of the year and named to the Hendricks Award watch list. Wilson led all Pirate linemen with 70 tackles and shared the CUSA lead with 18.5 tackles for loss.
Meanwhile, senior safety Van Eskridge has been selected a preliminary candidate for the 2009 Jim Thorpe Award, which recognizes the top defensive back in the country. His two fourth-quarter interceptions against Tulsa helped preserve the Pirates' first-ever CUSA championship.
"We have a great group of seniors who are going to do their best to lead this team ... allow us to focus each and every week," said Kass.
East Carolina swaggers into Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for its season and home opener Sept. 5 against three-time FBS national champion Appalachian State. It's just one of three home outings for the Pirates in the first two months of the season.
Also on the 12-game slate are matchups against West Virginia, North Carolina, reigning ACC champion Virginia Tech and CUSA rival Southern Miss.
"It's a big challenge because we know we have some talented teams that we're going to be playing against both in conference and outside conference," said Kass. "As long as we take that mental approach of concentrating one game at a time, going 1-0 each week, not looking ahead or behind, but focusing on the present, it will allow us to go from the hunter to the hunted and still continue to be successful."
Aye, and protect the booty as well.
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