So right after the ECU win over Virginia Tech, I got text out of the blue. It was from LIncoln Riley, the fresh new OC out at Oklahoma (quick props here for Lincoln and Sooners on the win over WVU). It was a short, brief but all-so-on-the-mark. He said, “Most impressive win of Ruff’s career.”
It was a case where Ruffin McNeill and his staff, IMO, completely out-coached the Virginia Tech staff and opened a window into some of the decision-making processes that these coaches go through. Trailing by two touchdowns early, Ruff and OC Dave Nichol made the call to let JUCO transfer quarterback James Summers take the reins from starter Blake Kemp – who had done a good job at QB up to that point, in fact leading the Pirates back to even the slate at 14-14.
Kemp was playing well (as he has all season), but Nichol and Ruff had the courage to do what many coaches wouldn’t based on the play of the starting QB…they switched to the back-up. Part of the switch was planned ahead of time to give Summers – who is still mastering the full playbook – a chance to get some on-field action, but more so, it was a call born of instincts. The rain was coming down and the need to run the ball was greater against a very good Hokies’ defense. The rest, of course,was history in the form of Summers’ 169 yard rushing exhibition that produced a pair of TD runs.
Nichol (and Ruff) should be lauded for having that courage. Kemp should be held up as an example for being the type of leader and person to understand and support the move, and of course Summers should be given credit for what he did on the field, which by the way came along with a 5-of-8 passing performance for 110 yards in a TD in terrible weather.
It is this coaching move that has, IMO, led the Pirates to NOT a quarterback controversy, but moreso to a quarterback discovery. And that is this: Blake Kemp is a good quarterback. This team can win with him under center. And James Summers is ECU’s starting quarterback – now. Like Kemp, he has earned it. The Pirates, who lost starter Kurt Benkert before the season, now finds itself in a most fortunate position. From the despair of not having a starter in the opening week, the Pirates should now rejoice in having two that have proven it against top talent.
I am not a fan of playing two QBs going forward, unless game conditions or performance warrants it. Summers has earned the right to be the starter and Kemp has earned the right to be a starter in waiting. The offensive line is not good enough at run blocking to be a threat on the ground without Summers in the line-up…he opens up the running game for Chris Hairston and the crew. Against SMU, Summers rushed for 85 yards, meaning the running backs rolled for the other 220 yards on the ground.
Lost in Summers rushing exploits over the past two weeks, which included 30 carries for 254 yards (8.5 ypc) and 4 TDs is the fact that Summers has hit on 14-of-18 passes for 263 yards and 3 TDs. That is a 78% completion rate with no INTs. His passing is not sub-par and his completion percentage is going to be high since he is such a threat to run the football. And, he plays the game with incredible passion…to see that guy come off the field, he is hyped and you can feel it through the TV screen…can’t imagine the impact he has on his teammates there in person. Gotta love that passion to compete…the type of passion it has always taken for a Pirate team to standout on the national scene.
Back to the coaching courage thing. Kemp could well be a viable starter the rest of the season. The coaches could have said, “we brought James Summers here to play wide receiver” and it be the end of it. Coaches most of the time don’ t like to change plans because if it doesn’t work out, they are called idiots and if it does work out, people wonder why the hell they ever thought he was a wide receiver. It is a no win situation unless you win…if you know what i mean.
Well, Summers is a winner and our coaches lit the fire by playing him despite the starter playing well, too. And so now, here ECU sits in a position where from an offensive perspective, the Pirates have a chance to beat anyone they play for the rest of the season because teams will have to pick their poison. If the defensive play against SMU was not an anomaly, then this Pirates team with Summers at the helm, is a dangerous team to play against every week. AND, should Summers have an off-game, or if the Pirates need a switch, you have a starter quality back-up in Kemp.
If I had a vote, this would be the situation going forward. Summers the starter, Kemp the more-then able back-up. Unless there is some reason Summers cannot be the starter related to performance (like he can’t handle pressure of being the starter), then it is time to reset the depth chart and move forward behind one starter and not stir up any kind of controversy that would truly put more stress on either player.
If Summers goes out to Provo next week and hits the three-peat in terms of performance, then Pirate fans should totally reset the expectations for this season and clear the calendar for late-December and early-January.
Summers is an impressive athlete. Kemp is a solid quarterback. Then there is also Kurt Benkert. It is a good ‘problem’ to have at East Carolina.
Thanks for checking in Paul
Spring 2016 is going to be intense at QB. Dave Nichol, indeed, has a good problem.
We are lucky to have Coach Ruff and staff! Seems like Coach Riley is showing just how good of an offense he can run in Norman,OK.
Understand why he left, but glad Coach Nichol stayed! We are in the midst of one of the best runs in ECU football history. Just hoping we are on the front end and it continues for many years!
Cheers to that Pirate96…hoping the same thing. We are in the hunt for the East and maybe a shot at the AAC title game.
Go Pirates, Go!
I’m so impressed with Summers and it has as much to do with the energy and lift he provides the team, on both sides of the ball, as with his stellar play. That is a leader and you don’t have to be in the locker room to see it. I think we can win any game on our schedule if he continues to develop and the defense performs as well going forward (BTW, how about that secondary?). How do you see this affecting the “Air Raid” offensive schemes going forward when you now have a solid 50/50 run to pass ratio?
Hi there Ed…very happy to hear from you. Hope you have been well.
To your question, I think the big thing is whether or not your “running QB” is also a passer. To me, Summers offers a superior runner with a guy who also can quickly hit the open man. IMO, when you can run 50-50 and the production is coming from both the QBs and the backs, it puts the defense into a pick-your-poison position. If they load up to stop the run, the QB’s elusiveness is still enough to kill you and if you spy and creep everything forward, he can pass like a true QB and take advantage of man-on-man and holes in the zones. It comes down to a 50-50 balance where you have true dual-threat QB. I think Summers gives us the opportunity to be fast-paced but also 50-50 on the run/pass balance.
Your answer should come over the next 8 weeks.
I totally agree with your thoughts on future success with Summers. And we can win with Blake also.
Cheers and Go Pirates!
Nice job Ron
IMHO there is not much of a comparison here. Summers looks like a man among boys where Kemp looks like a boy among men. To Kemps credit he can execute the the game plan in other words he is more than adequate of being a game manager. Yes we can win with him but you need next to perfect execution to make that happen.
On the other hand Summers can beat you because he is a superior athlete. He is bigger, faster, stronger, and can make plays when the play breaks down something that I think Kemp struggles with.
Bottom line its a nice problem to have. I think Kemp is limited in executing the entire playbook and think that Summers only knows about 20% of it. I would like to see what we can do once the coaches try to open it up.
The area that I see the most improvement in that has carried this team is the special teams. As I always cry for the pursuit of more transfers Worth Gregory is a huge weapon for this team. He can kick it 70 yards if needed or dial it back and kick it inside the 20. In addition the kid on the kickoffs has been outstanding. In an age when all kids play soccer I found it pathetic that we could not find someone who could kick the ball out of the end zone. Field position is huge and these 2 guys have made things much easier on a program that has always struggled to stop the opposition.
Hi DCP28…excellent post.
I share your thoughts on the special teams play. The kickoffs have been a joy to watch…that is, watching the other team take a knee or watch the ball sail out of the end zone. Pratt has been a great find. And Worth Gregory is a guy who does nothing but help our team…fantastic punter who can make the situational kick.
This team has two weeks in a row coming up to show the country something. Hopefully they do so.
Cheers and Go Pirates!
Summer’s has been a real bright spot and has earned the opportunity to start. My only concern with him (admittedly it may be premature) is his ball placement on passes. The air raid is built on putting the ball in spots where the receivers can pick up YAC and while Summers has good completion numbers, I have to wonder when teams start loading the box will he be able to put the ball where it needs to be for the offense to work.
No doubt Summers is the guy now but perhaps I am not quite convinced he is the long term answer at QB. He may well prove to be more than accurate enough and my concerns would therefore be answered.
I certainly am glad we have him, good job by Ruff and company recruiting him.
Thanks for stopping in Ed.
Your point on accuracy as it is needed in this offense is a good one and one we should all be watching. To date, Summers run threat has left receivers wide open (much like you see with Navy’s offense when it is clicking).
It will be interesting to see how he performs when the box is completely stacked. I think he is a good enough passer to hit guys in one v one situations, but as you have pointed out…we maybe don’t know enough yet about that aspect of his game.
Excited to see how the team does at BYU.
Go Pirates, Go!