Going into this season, left tackle Ike Harris was one of two offensive linemen on the East Carolina Pirates squad to be named to the Outland and Lombardi Award Watch Lists, as well as a preseason First Team All-AAC pick by Athlon and Phil Steele Publications.
Four weeks later, Harris is listed as a co-starter with Tre Robertson. Robertson, after missing the opening two games of the season due to illness, actually made the start versus Navy in week three. The Pirates offense produced 405 yards of total offense, but only 80 of those yards came on the ground versus the Midshipmen. Harris played in the game as a reserve lineman and a member of the special teams.
Harris, along with the rest of the ECU offensive line, struggled in week two versus the physical and athletic defense of Florida. At one point, he committed a personal foul that took the Pirates out of field goal range.
It will be interesting to see how this position battle turns out, especially if Harris ends up as the backup on gameday.
At the other tackle position, Dontae Levingston and Brandon Smith are listed as co-starters for the position.
This battle is much easier to determine with it coming down to the health of Levingston. The Pirates looked good on offense early versus Towson with Levingston as the starter. His time on the field did not last long as he was forced to leave in the first quarter due to a shoulder injury. The senior did not play in the Florida or Navy games due to the injury. ECU is visibly not as talented on the offensive line with Levingston off the field.
Brandon Smith was seen, heading into this season, as the right tackle of the future. That future came quickly as Smith was thrust into action due to an early injury to Levingston. At 6-8, 341 pounds, Smith is a huge individual that has played fairly well as a spot starter at right tackle, but his best football is in the future. You have to commend a sophomore that can step in and face Florida and Navy in his first two games as a starter.
It is clear that the ECU coaching staff would prefer Levingston as the starter, but only if his shoulder injury is in the past. An injured tackle that cannot get solid punch due to the bad shoulder would be a liability versus the attacking defense of Virginia Tech.
In addition to question marks at both tackle positions, J.T. Boyd may end up as the starting center if starter CJ Struyk cannot go. Struyk has made all three starts at center and Boyd has made all three starts at right guard. If Struyk cannot go and Boyd starts at center, expect sophomore Christian Matau to make the start at right guard.
It is still early in the week, but my best guess is that we will see Harris, McKinney, Boyd, Matau, and Smith as the starting offensive line.
I welcome opinions, especially those in contrast to mine about the offensive line. Do you think Harris is just struggling in general or is there an injury that is causing him to struggle? Will Levingston make it back into the starting lineup, or will Smith make another start versus Virginia Tech?