In making the biggest coaching decision of the 2015 season, East Carolina Pirates head coach Ruffin McNeill switched from Blake Kemp to James Summers during a win over Virginia Tech.
Kemp had just led the Pirates on a second straight scoring drive that tied the game at 14, but had also struggled early with two turnovers in the rain that engulfed the playing field. If that decision backfired, there would have been significant second guessing about McNeill’s move. The gamble paid off for ECU with backup James Summers giving the offense an extra dimension in the upset win.
As a result, the Pirates have decided to go with a two quarterback system that will give plenty of snaps to both quarterbacks. Kemp is the better true passer, but lack an ability to move the ball in chunk plays using his legs. Summers proved on Saturday that he is electric with the football in his hand, especially when running in open spaces. A combination of the two will force opponents to spend more time on two vastly different offensive philosophies, giving the Pirates a decided advantage.
The dirty secret around the ECU program has been the inability to run the ball in between the tackles. From the time Summers came in at quarterback, the Pirates had their first semblance of a running game since the season opening win over Towson. Starting running back Chris Hairston still did not have a good game, but should see his numbers improve with opponents focusing on stopping the running from the quarterback.
While McNeill and company stress that both quarterbacks will see the field in the upcoming game versus SMU, it is most likely that the quarterback who has the "hot hand" will see more action. Basically, if Kemp is lighting up SMU with the passing game, we will see very little of Summers at quarterback. If SMU slows down the passing game early, expect to see the running game with Summers get more snaps.
I have never been a big fan of the two quarterback system, this may be for the best decision for the Pirates. Something must be done to force opponents to respect the run game, and bringing a running quarterback like Summers on the field may be the answer. It will be hard to determine how well the two quarterback experiment works this week, because SMU is not good at all on defense. An October 10 trip to Provo will be the first real test for this experiment.
What do you think? Is McNeill handling the quarterback situation correctly? Was Summers’ explosive game just a flash in the pan, or is there a chance for him to give the Pirates a productive rushing game? What do you want to see from the quarterback position and the offense in general versus SMU?