Team preview: East Carolina

Editor's Note: ESPN Insider has teamed with Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook to provide a comprehensive look at all 119 Division I-A teams. To order the complete 2006 edition of Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook, visit www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call 1-866-805-BALL (2255).

(All information as of July 1, 2006)


Going into his second year as the head coach at recently poor East Carolina, Skip Holtz feels like the richest kid on the block, primarily because he now simply has the luxury of a starter and a reserve at every position.

He also understands that not everyone will get why he is so excited.

"I have to be careful to watch my guard because we have some depth and a little more talent," Holtz said. "Right now, I am like the boy who has never had a nickel to his name and all of a sudden I have a quarter in my hand.

"Sure, everybody else has $5,000, but I am going around saying 'Wow! A quarter! Look at my quarter!' I have something here we haven't had."

Holtz knew he was in for a difficult rebuilding job after the disastrous two-year tenure of John Thompson, who was hired from Florida after once successful and wildly popular coach Steve Logan and the school parted ways.

The Pirates won only three games under Thompson, who was let go with two games remaining by East Carolina athletics director Terry Holland.

Holland, who has been in charge of big-time programs before, hired Holtz, the son of legendary football coach Lou Holtz and the one-time head coach at Connecticut before he gave that job up to work with his father at South Carolina as offensive coordinator.

Holtz was a little shell-shocked at what he inherited -- a beaten-down team with only one scholarship tailback, a talented but academically ineligible quarterback and quite possibly the worst defensive squad in the country. He figured last year would be a difficult introductory period at a school that quite often has little to hang its hat on because it is so deeply buried within the shadow of its big brothers in the ACC.

But it was a testament to Holtz's abilities that the Pirates of 2005, even with all their shortcomings, came within a hair of going to the postseason. Holtz made a splashy debut, beating ACC foe Duke in his first game as head coach. Then reality set in, with back-to-back-to-back losses to Wake Forest, West Virginia and Southern Miss, which featured five ECU turnovers.

However, the Pirates won four of their final seven games. The losses in that stretch included a heart-breaking 27-24 loss at Memphis and a loss to UCF that came on the heels of six Pirate turnovers.

"Our players competed all year long," Holtz said. "When you sat down and looked at our team before last year, I kept telling people that I didn't know how good we could be. I just wanted us to be as good as we could be. That was our battle cry: to compete and be as good as we could be.