GREENVILLE, N.C. - With the loss this week of Vintavious Cooper with a concussion, other players are stepping up in his stead. Two of those players are sophomore running backs Chris Hairston and Snow College junior transfer Breon Allen.
That's a good thing since ECU just suspended two offensive skill players on Tuesday.
A lot of the young Pirate receivers have been stepping up like Davon Grayson, Quataye Smyre, Bryce Williams and Isaiah Jones. That takes some of the pressure off of guys like Justin Hardy, Lance Ray and Danny Webster who too have all done a fine job of late.
But two of East Carolina's inside receivers, junior Danny Webster and redshirt freshman Quataye Smyre, were suspended indefinitely for a violation of team policy according to an announcement from head football coach Ruffin McNeill late Tuesday afternoon. Neither are practicing this week.
"While this situation is contrary to the progress we've made and certainly not indicative of the many right choices we make as a collective group, I'm disappointed any time we have to address issues like this," McNeill said. "We always talk about being accountable as a program and any behavior that contradicts that is unacceptable. Our priority is to put people in a position to succeed."
"We talked about it in the past that everybody in this program has to be accountable to everyone within the program. Isaiah will move back to inside H, Barnes will move over there at H and is hungry and ready to go. Cedric (Thompson) is ready to go at H and Reese (Wiggins) is back at Z," said McNeill who when asked about when the suspended players might return, "They're on my time."
"ECU running back Chris Hairston ran for 94 yards on 18 carries while Breon Allen ran the football seven times for 28 yards against Middle Tennessee last Saturday. Both
seem ready to step in as needed.
The improvement in the overall running game has been evident over the past two games. East Carolina's veteran offensive line is a big part of the reason for that. Mixing up the offense hasn't hurt the passing game either. Shane Carden passed for 365 yards last week with a touchdown on the ground and another through the air in ECU's 24-17 win over Middle Tennessee.
Tulane got to 4-2 last Saturday when Cairo Santos kicked a 27-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Green Wave over North Texas 24-21. Quarterback Nick Montana went 18-28 for 232 yards and a touchdown to hold off the Mean Green's rally in the second half. Most of Tulanes points came off a blocked field goal that Derrick Stozier returned 64 yards for a touchdown and 59 yard interception return from Lorenzo Doss.
East Carolina should have a slight advantage on offense if they play like they can. The Pirate defense continues to improve even with different players plugged in at nose tackle and two of the linebacker positions over the last couple of weeks. Tulane is capable of scoring points but ECU should have the advantage in the end.
It's the last Conference USA game between Tulane and East Carolina before both schools move to the American Athletic Conference next year.
Ruffin McNeill gives the latest for Tulane Week while running back Chris Hairston and Will Simmons bring us up to date offensively. Check it out here on PirateIllustrated.com.