Stadium: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium
Coach: Mike Houston
SU Record: 3-6
ATS Record: 5-4-0
|Sep. 2||vs Appalachian State|
|Sep-11||vs South Carolina|
|Sep-25||vs Charleston Southern|
|Oct-28||vs South Florida|
East Carolina Pirates Returning Stats Leaders
|Darius Pinnix Jr.||44||120||2,7||10||2|
OVERALL RETURNING PRODUCTION FOR 2021/22
East Carolina Pirates Football Team
East Carolina Team News and Picks
The East Carolina Pirates enter the 2021 season looking to rebound from a forgettable 3-6 campaign in 2020, though it did end with two straight victories. Head coach Mike Houston enters his third season with the Pirates with 19 starters returning from last season, including 10 on the offensive side of the ball.
East Carolina is hoping the experience can get it back on the winning track, especially early on as other teams are putting things together.
The Pirates struggled in 2020, though they did finish with a pair of victories that could give them some momentum heading into the 2021 campaign. While the offense was solid, averaging 30.2 points and 402.7 yards per game, the defense had its troubles, allowing 35.4 points and 447.3 yards of offense in a contest.
After three postponements to start the season, East Carolina lost its first two contests by an average of 21.5 points. A victory at South Florida followed, getting the Pirates in the win column, but that was followed by four straight setbacks to drop ECU to 1-6.
But a dominating 28-3 win at Temple and a 52-38 victory at home over SMU closed out the season on a high note, giving the Pirates hope that things can improve in 2021.
Quarterback Colton Ahlers and running backs Keaton Mitchell and Rahjai Harris are expected to lead the East Carolina offense this season. Ahlers threw for 1,921 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, ranking in the top 30 nationally in passing touchdowns, completions per game (20.6), and passing yards per game (240.1). Ahlers also rushed for 109 yards with one touchdown.
Harris led the Pirates with 624 yards and four touchdowns on the ground a season ago, while Mitchell added 443 yards and two scores. Sophomore C.J. Johnson led the Pirates with six receiving touchdowns in 2020, while Tyler Snead added five scores.
Defensively, players like linebacker Xavier Smith, linebacker Bruce Bivens, and safety Jireh Wilson will need to be all over the field making plays. Defensive linemen Rick D’Abreu and Elijah Morris will also be a key to the Pirates improving on this side of the ball.
Redshirt freshman Kerry King will join the receiving corps for the Pirates after scoring a pair of touchdowns in the team’s spring game. King didn’t play in 2020. Ray Rose is a true freshman receiver who may get some looks on special teams and multiple-receiver sets.
Outside linebacker Jasiyah Robinson transferred from Michigan State and will be a freshman this season. Robinson didn’t get any playing time while with the Spartans.
Tight end Aaron Jarman is a grad transfer from Temple. He had one reception in 2020, an 11-yard touchdown against SMU while recording two tackles in seven games playing on special teams.
The team’s top receiver in regards to yardage, Blake Proehl (47 catches, 577 yards, four touchdowns), left school early to go to the NFL. Running back Darius Pinnix (120 yards, two touchdowns) transferred to Tiffin University.
Defensive lineman Chris Willis has graduated after making 28 tackles, including five for loss and two sacks in 2020.
The Pirates are going to need to turn things around to move up in the American Athletic Conference. Cincinnati, Memphis, SMU, and Houston will all be near the top this season, so just getting into the top half of the standings will be a feat.
East Carolina Team Offense
As long as Ahlers stays healthy, the Pirates should be able to put points on the board. He’s a key to both the passing game and opening things up for the running game with his threat to pass or throw.
There won’t be a shortage of playmakers in the passing game, and the offensive line returns all five starters, which should allow Ahlers time to find them. That experience upfront will also be key to opening up holes for Harris and Mitchell, who will split the carries in the backfield.
East Carolina Team Defense
The hope is that experience will bring some improvement on the defensive side of the ball. Fourteen of the top 15 tackles from a season ago will be suiting up again this year, so the learning curve isn’t as steep with this group.
The secondary has a pair of sophomores in cornerback Ja’Quan McMillian (four interceptions, 33 tackles) and safety Shawn Dourseau (58 tackles), who can make plays. A big key to improvement is a better pass rush after ECU finished with just 14 sacks in 2020. Jireh Wilson led the team with 3.5, with Xavier Smith adding 2.5 along with a team-high eight tackles for loss.
Frequently Asked Questions
Seven, with the most recent being back-to-back titles in Conference USA in 2008 and 2009.
East Carolina joined the AAC in 2014.
20, with the most recent being the 2015 Birmingham Bowl vs. Florida.
Steve Logan won 69 games from 1992 to 2002.