EAST CENTRAL TIGERS
Head coach: Tim McCarty, ninth season
2014 record (6-5)
East Central is coming off a postseason appearance in ’14 in the Heart of Texas Bowl, but would like to take this year’s season into the playoffs.
The Tigers would also like to turn things around, even following the winning season, as they closed out the year with three straight losses.
But McCarty said simply that he is pleased with what he sees in this group.
“I really like this team a lot, with the chemistry this year and we really have some good players.
“Mix all that up and it’s going to come down to execution. But what I know about this team, I like.”
But there are adjustments the Tigers will need to make to take the next step. On paper last year, it looked like a team that finished just above .500, scoring 30.0 points and giving up 30.5 points per game, and was in the middle of the conference in almost all the major statistical categories.
For 2015, the quarterback position has been locked up, but it’s not by the person who held it last season, even though he is returning. Rocky Moore, a senior, will get his shot at QB, while fellow senior Spencer Bond, who threw for more than 200 yards per game in ’14 moves to safety. Jamal Hall is the leading returning rusher and the Tigers brought in Deshawn Jones, who will be competing with others for time in the backfield. Junior David Moore was second in the GAC in touchdown receptions (10) in ’14, and senior Juwan Dotson, who led the team in receptions is getting looks to continue playing after this year. Seniors Travis Hening and Kevin Bowen are huge for the offensive line and Anthony Mayberry is a fifth-year senior who has started multiple years as well. McCarty said he feels very good about the depth of his offense with many freshmen ready to step up in various areas. Rashad Jackson is in his seventh season as the offensive coordinator.
Senior Karmah Yates, a great pass rusher, and junior Gumaro Murphy are on the ends with junior Francisco Silva and senior Ryland Widener at the tackles and all are returners with much experience. On top of that, McCarty said he has two more complete units that are backing up that one and is excited about the depth of the line for a defense that led the GAC in sacks (35) last year. Senior linebacker Jameel Whitney broke the school record for tackles last season (111) and is 25 away from the career mark. He returns along with senior Cole Weber. Another senior Jamaal Whitney will look to start in the nickel package, and there will be a large group of underclassmen and transfers vying for time in the secondary. The headliner is Bond, who has moved to safety from quarterback, and McCarty said he is expecting big things from the senior. Randy Pippen will be in as defensive coordinator for his second season.
Bond will also see time again as the punter and senior David Massuere has been solid as the Tigers’ kicker and will fill that role again.
East Central opens the season at home against the defending champion Ouachita Tigers and then travel to Henderson State, which won the GAC the two previous seasons. After that, the schedule, at least on paper, looks a little lighter.
McCarty said his team has the capability of showing up big this season, but that it must keep its focus each week.
“I think it’s going to be the attention to all the tiny details. We’re a team that doesn’t have to worry about ability. If we take care of business in those areas, we’ll be a fine team.
“We’re going to show up and compete every week. Theoretically, we don’t fear anybody and we’re not going to take the field and just be outmanned. Our goal is not to beat ourselves. Two or three times a year, we beat ourselves. And we just can’t do that.”
The Tigers haven’t had a losing season since 2010 and that streak should continue into this year. With much depth and experience, ECU can be competing for the top spot in the GAC in ’15.