The East Carolina Pirates, of Greenville, NC

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The East Carolina Pirates, of Greenville, NC had a very good season in 2008. The Pirates went 9-5 overall and 7-2 in Conference USA games, including a 27-24 heart pounding victory over Tulsa, who went 11-3 overall and 7-1 in conference games, to clench its first conference title in 32 years and received a berth in the Liberty Bowl, where they lost 19-25 to Kentucky. Despite the loss in the Liberty Bowl, East Carolina fans have much to be happy about. This is a young and talented team in a weak conference, there is no reason the Pirates shouldn't be a major force for years to come, even maintain their conference champion status.

However, East Carolina will have to hope that their retention is good and that the veteran players hold true because they didn't have the greatest recruiting season. Despite the first ever Conference USA Championship, they didn't get a huge boost for recruiting, finishing with 20 signees and a recruitment class that ranked 10th in the conference.

Coach Skip Holtz is enthusiastic about his recruits though, in particular quarterback Rio Johnson from Sandy Creek High in Atlanta, GA, and the three running backs brought in with the concern about running back Dominique Lindsay's knee injury still looming. "I think he has a chance to be special," Holtz said of Johnson. "He's athletic. I don't really think he is a runner, but he's athletic enough to buy time and make things happen in the pocket. He was one of the most accurate quarterbacks I've seen since we've been here. I think he has a tremendous arm and a huge upside." Good news for the Pirates as quarterback Patrick Pinkney was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA due to missing the 2005 season with a shoulder injury. He started 13 of 14 games last season for the Conference USA champions, completing 223-of-363 passes for 2,675 yards and 13 touchdowns.

With a main focus on instate recruiting, the Pirates brought in 14 North Carolina students including athlete Michael Dobson of Mount Airy, NC and offensive tackle Will Simmons from Ahoskie, NC. Dobson was rated the 25th best athlete in the class after rushing for 1,758 yards (11.3 yards per carry) and 35 touchdowns and leading Mount Airy (16-0) to a state title. He also had 35 tackles as a safety in 2008 and finished his career with 12 interceptions. Simmons was a two-time all-state selection at Hertford County High and was named the conference lineman of the year in 2007.

The Pirates also recruited the 30th ranked tight end with Justin Jones from Conyers, Ga. At 6-8 252 pounds, he had 11 catches for 115 yards and five touchdowns on offense and tallied 71 tackles, 10.5 sacks and four fumble recoveries at defensive end in 2008. Running Back Giavanni Ruffin from Virginia Beach, VA transferred from California's College of the Sequoias. In 2008 he rushed for 563 yards and five touchdowns and caught 18 passes for 201 yards and runs a 4.4 40 yard dash.

Writer and editor, Freddie Brister, is a former high school football coach of 25 years. His love of the game of football is reflected in his words and memories of growing up in the South and playing football in the back yard with his brother, cousins and neighborhood friends. His biggest thrill is watching former high school players he has coached play at the college level. His favorite pastime is watching college football on tv and attending the games in person every chance he gets. Freddie Brister is a huge fan of college football. Check out his East Carolina Gear or his Cal Golden Bears Store

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