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Has James Summers Earned ECU’s Starting Quarterback Position?

Another week and another come from behind win over East Carolina. James Summers had another big game in leading the Pirates to a win. Is it time to name him the starter?

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Against Virginia Tech, East Carolina Pirates head coach Ruffin McNeill made the decision to go with quarterback James Summers in a rain soaked 14-14 game. His decision worked out and gave McNeill confidence to attempt a two quarterback system versus SMU.

In what turned into a quarter and a half of Blake Kemp and 2 1/2 quarters of Summers, a quarterback decision may have been made. Kemp was 10-16 for 96 yards and a touchdown, but had two costly interceptions in his time on the field. When Kemp left the field, the Pirates were trailing 23-7.

Summers, coming off the bench for the second straight week, came in an immediately led the Pirates on two straight scoring drives to pull within 23-21 at the half. The junior led ECU on four more touchdown drives in the second half in route to a 49-23 win.

So, the question remains, should the Pirates go ahead and give Summers the starting quarterback job for the BYU game Saturday night? As of Monday, the ECU depth chart lists Blake Kemp OR James Summers as the starting quarterback this week.

Anyone that has watched the Pirates in the last two weeks would have to agree that the offense looks much better with Summers at the helm. With Summers at quarterback for the Pirates, they have outscored Virginia Tech and SMU 63-14. With Kemp at quarterback, the Pirates have been outscored 37-21.

The ECU defense even showed up with their best performance of the season after Summers took control of the offense. Much of that was due to the more run oriented offense that takes up more time of possession and gives the Pirates defense more time to rest in between drives. A rested defense is a better defense.

Let’s take a look at the statistics.

Rushing: With Kemp at quarterback in the Towson, Florida, and Navy games, ECU gained a total of 259 yards/86.3 yards per game. That is a total of 3.4 yards per carry. With Summers at quarterback for most of the Virginia Tech and SMU games, ECU has rushed for 488 yards/244 yards per game. The yards per carry average jumps to 5.0 yards per carry.

Passing: So far, Kemp has been the better overall passer with 1,107 yards in the air and eight touchdowns. His five interceptions, not to mention lost fumbles, have been devastating for the offense. Summers has not been asked to pass the ball at anywhere near the rate of Kemp with only 22 pass attempts on the season. Even so, Summers is hitting on a 77.3% completion rate with three touchdowns. He was 9-10 for 153 yards and two touchdowns versus SMU.

Scoring: With Kemp at quarterback, the Pirates have scored 94 points as a whole. During his first three starts that saw him go all the way, the Pirates have averaged 24.3 points per game. With Summers seeing action, the Pirates broke the 30 point barrier in both games with 35 versus Virginia Tech and 49 versus SMU. 63 of those 84 points came with Summers at quarterback.

This game versus BYU will be a huge test for Summers and the ECU quarterback system, but Summers has to come out as the starter. I would not be surprised to see Kemp in the game at some point, but after performances versus Virginia Tech and SMU, Summers has to be given the opportunity to earn the starting role on his own.