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Friday, January 22, 2010
ECU will start spreading the ball around

By Graham Watson

The questions about what type of offense East Carolina is going to run under newly named head coach Ruffin McNeill have been answered.

McNeill hired Lincoln Riley as his offensive coordinator Thursday evening. Riley, 26, becomes the youngest offensive coordinator in the country. He was the wide receivers coach at Texas Tech, but was the interim offensive coordinator for the Alamo Bowl when McNeill was the head coach. The Red Raiders defeated Michigan State 41-31.

Riley told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he would run the same version of the spread offense that he learned under former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach.

"I'm excited, man,'' Riley told the Star-Telegram. "I'll get a chance to do some things and work for some great guys, so that's exciting.

"I'm just thinking about the opportunities and all the good things it has. It feels really good.''

ECU has to replace four players on offense, including quarterback Patrick Pinkney, who wouldn’t have fit in to Texas Tech’s style of offense anyway. Freshman Josh Jordan was the Pirates’ backup quarterback last season. He completed 5-of-7 passes for 61 yards and no touchdowns in spot time in two games this season. It's unknown whether he'll be the favorite to start or whether ECU will look toward recruiting for a gunslinger.

"There's enough quarterbacks that want to go throw it, so we'll go find the best guy we can and go to work,'' Riley told the Star-Telegram. "Finding a quarterback won't be a problem.

"Whenever you have this (spread) offense, there will be quarterbacks, because they want to throw the ball.''

One player that will thrive in a pass-heavy offense will be all-conference receiver Dwayne Harris, who finished last season with 83 catches for 978 and seven touchdowns. Harris was not only the most dynamic player on East Carolina's roster, but by far one of the most dynamic players in the entire conference.

ECU going to the spread system will give them an advantage over other Conference USA teams on the East side of the conference. The East boasts more conservative offenses while the spread systems are usually reserved for teams on the West side. Both Houston and UTEP are known for their high-octane offensive styles in the West. Southern Miss and Tulane both run a version of the spread, but neither school puts up the types of numbers seen in the West.