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Yiannis Bowden Ready To Break Through For East Carolina

Waiting his turn to start for two years, 2016 looks to be the season of Yiannis Bowden. He should star in the attacking, big play defense brought to ECU in a coaching staff change. Bowden could put his name on NFL radars if his breaks through as expected this fall.

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Waiting somewhat buried on the depth chart with star linebackers Zeek Bigger and Montese Overton playing their finals year, East Carolina Pirates outside linebacker Yiannis Bowden looks to be in line for a starring role in 2016.

The rising sophomore was part of the 2014 recruiting class. This class included offensive lineman Dontae Livingston, defensive back Corey Seargant, and projected starting offensive tackle tackle Messiah Rice. Bowden was the fifth highest rated recruit from the #6 ranked American Athletic Conference class.

Coming out of high school Bowden had the height, but he needed some time to grow into his frame after measuring at 6-5, 206 pounds. A three-star recruit out of RB Glenn High School, Bowden was also offered from Ball State, Cincinnati, and Old Dominion from the FBS ranks.

Teams had trouble classifying what his true position would be in college. Some teams listed him as a defensive end, some as a linebacker, and a few as just an athlete. A meeting with the recruiting class a few days before signing day pulled him in the direction of ECU and got his commitment.

After enrolling at East Carolina, the high school defensive end was moved to a more natural position at outside linebacker where he redshirted. That year of redshirting was essential in his growth as Bowden added another 20 pounds to his frame while learning to play the position from an impressive linebacker corps.

The 2015 season saw Bowden earn a role in the rotation at linebacker, albeit not quite as extensive as he hoped. Even with inconsistent playing time in 2015, Bowden was able to make 19 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, one interception, one pass break up, six quarterback hits, and a fumble recovery. The redshirt freshman also recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown versus BYU.

The biggest reason for Bowden's lack of consistent playing time was the play of Joe Allely. The fellow outside linebacker saw action in 11 games with 38 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Bowden made three starts at that position versus BYU, Tulsa, and Temple. On the other side was Overton and his team-high 10 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in 12 games played.

So where does Bowden fit in the defense in 2016?

Yiannis Bowden will need to step in and be Overton on the outside. With inside linebacker Jordan Williams and fellow outside linebacker Allely back this fall, Bowden will have every chance to shine as a linebacker that can rush the passer and also drop into coverage.

Always known more for his athleticism than his strength, Bowden has benefited greatly from his time in the ECU strength and conditioning program. He is a 6-5, 225 pound blur, timing 4.5 in the 40, so an added strength and physicality will put him among the AAC's top outside linebackers.

One thing that the Pirates defense struggled with last fall and helped lead to their eventual downfall was their inability to get game changing plays from the defense. The ECU defense only forced 16 turnovers and totaled 25 sacks on the year. The new coaching staff has put an emphasis on improving those numbers with more creative blitzing on nearly every play.

The benefit of a 3-4 defense is the ability to send blitzers from nearly any direction on any play. Everyone will be a possible rusher on any play, but one of the most consistent blitzes should come from Bowden.

Bowden, as stated before, finished the 2015 season with 3.5 sacks and an interception. His 3.5 sacks was good for second on the team and new defensive coordinator Kenwick Thompson has to be excited to see how many different ways he can use the rising sophomore.

While it is hard to expect to see Bowden play as well as Overton during his redshirt sophomore season, he has the chance to make 75+ tackles, possible double digit tackles for loss, and six or more sacks.  When looking at it, those numbers are not that far off from what Overton put up last fall. Bowden has the skill to be a star in 2016, but time will tell if he is ready to make that jump forward.