Spring Football: Players battle for spot at ECU
By Aaron Beard
GREENVILLE ó Brandon Jackson and Michael Bowman know they are competing for a position on East Carolina’s depth chart. At least they have given coach Skip Holtz something to think about heading into fall workouts.
Bowman had two touchdown catches in the program’s annual spring game Saturday to lead the ECU squad past the Pirates squad 31-10. Meanwhile, Jackson ó a sophomore transfer from Kentucky ó had a solid rushing day to cap what was one of the best overall performances by any player during the spring drills.
Both players find themselves among a crowd of skill position players trying to earn playing time in the upcoming season, though that depth has given Holtz reason for optimism going into his fifth season.
“I’m encouraged with our skill players, and I think we have some playmakers,” Holtz said. “And one of the things we’ve lacked, especially the second half of last year, was a big-play threat. I’m encouraged to turn and put the puzzle together now that spring is over.”
Jackson’s play probably has stood out the most since the start of spring workouts a month ago. He ran hard all day and finished with 55 yards on 15 carries for the Pirates squad, with most of that coming before the coaching staff decided to focus on the passing game in the second half.
By then, however, Holtz had already seen enough to say that Jackson had likely earned a spot on the two-deep depth chart for the season opener against Appalachian State.
It remains to be seen who will join him there. J.R. Rogers had a 50-yard touchdown run for the ECU squad but had a fumble on an option pitch that led to a turnover. Dominique Lindsay is recovering from a knee injury that kept him out all last season and limited to non-contact drills through the spring. In addition, it’s uncertain whether talented runners Jon Williams (legal issues) and Norman Whitley (personal issues) will be ready for the fall.
“Brandon Jackson has shown he’s capable of being an every-down player in this offense,” Holtz said. “We can only work with the guys who are out here and the guys we know are going to be here. … Right now, I think (Jackson) has definitely solidified himself as a guy that’s going to be competing for the starting job.”
Jackson, however, figures he’s got to do a lot more to earn that spot.
“I’m not taking any of my opportunities for granted,” he said. “I did all that I could. There’s no reason to go and look back now. It’s over with. I put my best foot forward every time I stepped on the field, so the rest is up to the coaches.”
“When they got the ball to me, I just tried to make a play,” Bowman said. “Right now, like Coach Holtz said, we’re just battling for positions and trying to get a spot on the depth chart.”
Pinkney, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, had a strong day, completing 19 of 26 passes for 229 yards for the ECU team. Redshirt freshman Josh Jordan played the whole way for the Pirates squad ó throwing for 202 yards with an interception ó because senior Rob Kass was away due to a death in the family.