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Two Pirates Falter, Door Opens for Two Others to Shine

Ruff was preaching...but some of the players just weren't listening.
Coach Ruff was preaching…but some of the players just weren’t listening.

So today, what most Pirate fans already expected, became official. Two of the Pirates most notable wide receivers will miss the 2013 season after failing to maintain required academic standards. For one, senior Justin Jones, it means we have seen his last game as a Pirate. For the other, Jabril Solomon, we can only hope that it is a wake-up call of monumental proportions and that he will rally for his own good and get back into school and resume what was a beautiful start to a football career last season.

In the ECU Press Release, found here, Coach Ruffin McNeill succinctly said it all, when he stated:

“While the support system we have in place here has been of great benefit to our student-athletes, we unfortunately reached a point where we are unable to help Justin and Jabril retain their eligibility. The expectations we have for everyone in our program are high, both on and off the field, and I’m disappointed whenever those aren’t met or even exceeded.”

Ruff’s statement was on point and focused squarely where it should be. Look, the coach just found out that he lost two major parts of his offense today. Sure, he knew it was coming, sure he expected it, but, it still hurts his team. Yet, he underscored the very heart of the debate that is raging on in college football right now where many coaches and university presidents are saying the game and the money trump the academics of it all. Kudos to Coach Ruff who is stepping into the role of father again, only this time, he has to show the toughest kind of love.

Will always be a Pirate: Jones has etched his name in Pirate lore with his Hail Mary grab against Tulsa.

I feel bad for Justin Jones particularly. I know, he let his teammates down, but if anyone cares to go back four years, you will recall that there was a HUGE reason why Justin was even available for the Pirates. Academics. He was a high bar risk from day one. The coaches knew it and so did he. I remember interviewing him for Bonesville Magazine and he expressed his greatest fear was whether or not he would be able to handle the academics. It was a risk and he almost made it through. Thankfully, you can’t coach his size and ability and so he will get an NFL shot and providing that he continues to work on his game/physical abilities, he could make it happen. I pray he does, because otherwise, he could end up a degree-less afterthought, spending his days at the Applebees back home telling his would’ve, could’ve stories to anyone who will listen. I wish only the best for him.

For Jabril, I hope this serves as a catalyst to get it together. He is an outstanding player with great potential…and he has time to get it right either here or elsewhere. Hopefully he will don the purple & gold again. It is truly more important that he get his life straight academically right now. I hope he is already working on it.

As for the team, and here is the analysis part of this post, I don’t think this unit misses a beat at all without these two. Frankly, Jones was little more than a tease over his last two seasons. Albeit, when he teased, he was a jaw-dropper, but that oft talked about deadly mismatch he created for defenses never really materialized. He had the big red zone game against Marshall two seasons ago, but let us not forget that his career has been one filled with starts and re-starts. He never dominated like he potentially could have. And while Solomon had a breakout freshman season, it is not like we are devoid in the ranks. Reese Wiggins also had a prime frosh season only to backslide as a sophomore and then re-emerge as a junior and is apparently ready to produce this season.

Inside, Bryce Williams is a similar mismatch threat to Jones and there are no issues with his academics.

Two have faltered and two more will step up. If you look at the hands in the pool: Justin Hardy, Danny Webster, Wiggins, Williams, and Lance Ray, there are playmakers in that bunch. And, just like Solomon a  year ago, there are a host of guys whose names will just as easily roll off the tongues when they get their shots…guys like DaQuan Barnes, Davon Grayson, Isaiah Jones, Quataye Smyre and a Lincoln Riley watch special, Cam Worthy (JUCO). ANY ONE of this group could be the next Solomon.

I am not worried one bit about the offense and the impact of these latest casualties. The offense will be fine.

Worry about those two young men…hope that things work out for Justin Jones. Hope that Jabril Solomon gets it together and plays another day. They are the two who have been hurt by their own faltering.

And – because I cannot resist taking a shot at UNC – this press release once again shows that not “everyone does it.” Julius Peppers played four seasons at North Carolina while academically ineligible. Marvin Austin came in ineligible until he took a bogus course and then was rewarded with being able to wear UNC colors in an all-star game. Our school could probably have “made it happen” for these two football players, but we did the right thing and I am proud that we did.

Thank you both – Justin and Jabril – for the fine performance and good luck getting things back together.

My two cents.

Counting the days my friends…

6 comments on “Two Pirates Falter, Door Opens for Two Others to Shine

  1. JollyRoger

    It seems many kids are less prepared for college than even five or ten years ago. Many NC freshmen have to take remedial classes before starting regular courses. That said, ECU will be fine at WR with all the depth and talent we have.

    • Thanks for stopping in JR…totally agree about the preparedness you noted.

      And, I agree – obviously – that we will be fine at WR.


  2. Mark Schechter

    You don’t properly use roll or role.

    • Thanks Mark…

      I committed an error that I hate to see in other pieces elsewhere…I rushed the post and didn’t proofread it at all. Caught a few other errors as well.

      Sometimes I just get on a roll while typing and forget my role as a writer.

      Thanks and best regards Mark!

  3. Ed Keller

    I like your take on this (and am encouraged by it). Also, I agree that our university is well served by insisting on quality. Football-wise, I think your are mostly right. I’m concerned we’re going to miss that nice little endzone fade where SC throws it high where only JJ can get it. Go Pirates!

    • No doubt Ed…the red zone concern is a big one when it comes to JJ…I do believe we could feel the pain there. He made some spectacular grabs. Hopefully we get the same type of red zone production from Williams who is also a big dude.

      I am optimistic about this season and the offense in particular. If our defensive guys can play solid, we might have something here.


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