ECU’s defense may not inflict fear into the hearts of UNC’s offense on Saturday, but it is still a very solid unit that played well against Va Tech. Against those Hokies, the Pirate defense held Logan Thomas and company to just 311 yards of offense. Tech would run the ball for only 53 yards the entire game, while the defense secondary held Thomas to only 58% passing and less than 300 yards in the air. Like ECU’s offense, UNC has to be careful not to overlook this team and this game. ECUs offense is good enough to put on a lot of points, and the defense is good enough to hold UNC just enough to pull off and upset.
The leading tacklers for the Pirates so far are Derrell Johnston, Brandon Williams, and Damon Magazu. Johnston plays will linebacker next to buck linebacker Williams in ECU’s 3-4 defense. The linebackers fly around making plays and tackles, and figure to impact the game big time on Saturday. Magazu leads the secondary, which will start 3 seniors on Saturday against UNC. ECU can also get after the QB in this 3-4 defense, recording 10 sacks so far. The leaders in that stat are DEs Lee Pegues and Terrell Stanley. James Hurst should be able to shut down one of the two, but like in the Georgia Tech game, they will probably take turns facing Hurst and less experienced John Heck. Heck struggled against GT’s pass rush specialist Jeremiah Attaochu. We will see if Heck can do enough to block the speedy ECU ends and give Bryn Renner time to operate in the pocket.
Names to Know- Terrell Stanley, Lee Pegues
ECU’s three somewhat undersized lineman will have to have really big games to give ECU a chance on Saturday. Stanley, a sophomore end, checks in a 6’6″ and only 266 pounds. UNC’s Hurst, a tackle who will often be lining up against Stanley, has almost 50 pounds on him. This size and numbers advantage will help UNC’s offensive line, which has struggled at times this season after personnel losses from last year. This isn’t the strongest group, and you shouldn’t expect any more than one or two sacks from ECU’s line on Saturday.
Names to Know- Derrell Johnston, Brandon Williams
ECU will start four linebackers, called Sam, Mike, Buck, and Will in Pirate terminology. The two scariest are Johnston and Williams, who each have racked up lots of tackles so far. This is a solid group, but one of the question marks for this unit is who will try and defend Eric Ebron over the middle. Ebron is a quick 6-4, 245, and ECU has no one that stands out on paper that could stay with him and defend against his height. UNC should be able to exploit Ebron over the middle all game.
Names to Know- Adonis Armstrong, Damon Magazu
ECU had six defenders place on Phil Steele’s four All-Conference USA teams, and two of them were in the secondary. Armstrong and Magazu each received second team honors, and lead a veteran group for ECU Head Coach Ruffin McNeil. This is a solid group who should play well on Saturday, even against UNC’s hurry up offense. However, again UNC has match-ups to exploit. Quinshad Davis runs 6-4, like Ebron, but ECU’s tallest corner on the three deep depth chart is just 6-1. Look for UNC to target Davis in the end zone and let him rise above the Pirate defenders.