East Carolina Pirates Preview 2022: Season Prediction, Breakdown, Key Games, Players

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East Carolina Pirates Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the East Carolina season with what you need to know and keys to the season.

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East Carolina Pirates Preview
Head Coach: Mike Houston, 3rd year at East Carolina, 14-19
12th year overall, 94-44, 2021 Preview
2021 Record: Overall: 7-5, Conference: 5-3
Keys To The Season | Season Prediction, What Will Happen
East Carolina Top 10 Players | East Carolina Schedule

East Carolina Pirates Preview 2022

East Carolina was fun.

It was the first winning season since 2014, the seven wins were as many as the first two years in the Mike Houston era, and the program was going bowling again only to see the game get canceled.

The offense was strong, the defense wasn’t totally miserable, and the team did exactly what it had to in a stepping-stone season – it beat the teams it was supposed to. Now the next step is to start beating the better ones.

It was a weekly thrill ride with seven games decided by a touchdown or less before the battle with Cincinnati that – for a while – was closer than the 35-13 final score.

It’ll take some patching to get the offense up to speed, but the defense has experience, the key backups from last year should be ready to shine, and with what’s coming soon in the American Athletic Conference, this is the year for the program to reposition itself as the future star of the league.

For now, just getting bowl eligible again would be good enough.

East Carolina Pirates Preview 2022: Offense

The Pirate offense was better than it’s been in a while, but it still has to be a whole lot better in pass protection and it could stand to be a tad more explosive.

The yards were there, and few teams were better at scoring after getting in the red zone, but the receiving corps has to be redone, the line needs to be stronger, and – more on this in the Keys section – the running game has to be good every time out.

The passing game will be fine. QB Holton Ahlers is a longtime veteran quarterback who knows what he’s doing – he’ll throw for at least 200 yards every time out – and the receiving corps should be fine.

Tyler Snead took off early, but CJ Johnson is a dangerous deep threat and Ryan Jones is a nice tight end who caught 37 passes and five scores. Like last year, Ahlers will spread the ball around.

The line will at least be experienced. Now it has to block a pass rusher. Too many teams lived rent free in the backfield, but there’s a decent base of starters returning, West Virginia’s Parker Moorer should find a spot at left tackle, and overall the front five will be better.

The Pirates went way young in the running back rotation. Ahlers will take off and add yards, too, but the combination of sophomore backs Keaton Mitchell and the more thumping Rahjai Harris should once again push for well past 1,500 yards. Getting North Carolina transfer Kamarro Edmonds is going to be a big deal at some point.

East Carolina Pirates Preview 2022: Defense

The defense was okay. Don’t blow that off as any sort of dismissive thing – 2015 was the last time ECU didn’t give up six yards per play. It’s not like it was a brick wall, but the D was at least in the middle of the AAC pack. That’s a massive improvement, and now there’s experience after taking a whole lot of lumps with underclassmen in key spots.

The Pirates used a whole lot of parts, and now it should pay off. All-star LB Bruce Bivens and S Jaquan McMillian are both gone, but they only made 57 and 56 tackles, respectively. Myles Berry is back at one inside linebacker spot, Jeremy Lewis will once again be a key pass rusher from his hybrid spot – however, he only led the team with four sacks – and Xavier Smith is about to play a much bigger role.

The secondary had a nice mix of parts last year. Again, the rotation mattered, and now the safeties should be okay after getting their feet more than wet. Malik Fleming is a veteran all-around corner to build around.

Keys To The Season | Season Prediction, What Will Happen
East Carolina Top 10 Players | East Carolina Schedule

East Carolina Pirates: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats NEXT

East Carolina Pirates: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats

East Carolina Pirates: Key To The 2022 Offense

Run, keep running, and keep controlling the clock.

East Carolina wasn’t always consistent and the O didn’t always work, but it held the ball for 32:33 a game even though it wasn’t all that great on third downs. That’s where the rushing attack came in.

It’s a tad coincidental considering a few of the wins came down to a few key bounces and big moments, but the Pirates were able to stay in games on the ground.

They were 7-0 when running for 150 yards or more and 0-5 when they didn’t.  Going back to the 2020 loss to Cincinnati. they’re 9-0 when they hit the mark, and now the backfield should be even stronger.

East Carolina Pirates: Key To The 2022 Defense

Generate more of a pass rush.

The 26 sacks weren’t all that bad considering they came from several different parts, but the tackles for loss came in waves.

The Pirates were able to hang with Houston thanks to 13 tackles for loss, and they were able to bring it early on over the first half of the season 55 tackles for loss in the first seven games.

And then an odd thing happened – the tackles for loss weren’t there, but the wins were. Part of that was because of the style of the offenses they were going against, and part of it was the ECU O controlling the clock.

Even so, more sacks against the better passing teams – and more tackles for loss – to keep the third down stops going will be a must.

East Carolina Pirates: Key Player To The 2022 Season

CB Malik Fleming, Jr.
Yeah, the key backups from last year will Next Man Up and be ready to take over in the secondary, but the production losses will still matter. The biggest problem is the loss of Denver Bronco CB Ja’Quan McMillian.

Fleming had a nice year with 34 tackles, two interceptions and nine tackles for loss, but now he – and S Shawn Dourseau – has to be the anchor star of the young and reworked secondary.

East Carolina Pirates: Key Transfer

RB Kamorro Edmonds, RFr.
East Carolina is already solid at running back – Keaton Mitchell might be the team’s best player – but the offense just upgraded the overall position with the arrival of Edmonds.

The 6-0, 230-pound back was a terrific get for North Carolina with his combination of size and quickness. He didn’t do anything last year for the Tar Heels and took off through the transfer portal, and very soon he might be a difference-maker in the rotation.

East Carolina Key Game To The 2022 Season

Memphis, Oct. 15
The Pirates were able to slip by the Tigers in a 30-29 thriller last season that secured six wins and bowl eligibility. This time around a win might be for survival.

The easy part of the schedule is in the first half – East Carolina has got to bank most of its wins there. It’s going to be a brutal run – more on this in the Prediction section right after that – but overall it might be tough to get to six wins without taking down the Tigers.

East Carolina Pirates: 2021 Fun Stats

– Sacks: Opponents 37 for 222 yards – East Carolina 26 for 182 yards
– ECU 3rd Quarter Scoring: 50 – ECU 4th Quarter Scoring: 120
– Fumbles: East Carolina 24 (lost 11) – Opponents 10 (lost 6)

O, D Breakdown | Season Prediction, What Will Happen
East Carolina Top 10 Players | East Carolina Schedule

East Carolina Pirates Season Prediction, What Will Happen NEXT

East Carolina Pirates Season Prediction, What Will Happen

East Carolina can’t go back know after it knows what a winning season looks like. 2014 was the last time the program played in a bowl game after last year’s was cancelled – this group needs the swag bag fun.

Can it win the nail-biter tight games like it did for most of last season? Can the lines really improve enough, and will – don’t laugh at this – one of the best backfields in the AAC be enough to overcome the tough moments?

Against the bad teams it will.

Set The East Carolina Pirates Regular Season Win Total At … 6

So here’s the problem. East Carolina might be able to pull off an upset or two, but it’s going to be in big, big trouble if it doesn’t start out at least 5-1.

Starting against NC State – even at home – is rough, but the next five games are all winnable before hosting Memphis. And then hell comes to breakfast with UCF, at BYU, at Cincinnati, Houston to follow, and then closing out with a trip to an improved Temple.

ECU might just win one of those nasty games – watch out, NC State – and it’ll somehow get to six wins.

Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
East Carolina Top 10 Players | East Carolina Schedule

2022 College Football Schedules: All 131 Teams