Oct 292013
East Carolina football coach Ruffin McNeill talks about Saturday's game against Florida International during a news conference on Monday. (Aileen Devlin/The Daily Reflector)

Aileen Devlin/The Daily Reflector

East Carolina football coach Ruffin McNeill talks about Saturday’s game against Florida International during a news conference on Monday. (Aileen Devlin/The Daily Reflector)

By Nathan Summers

Monday, October 28, 2013


Even a bye week was unkind to the East Carolina football team as the Pirates emerged from their second scheduled off date of the season with fresh injuries, and at least one more true freshman has been sent to the rescue.

The Pirates (5-2, 3-1 Conference USA) already were in the throes of some serious adjustments thanks to a slew of season-ending and long-term injuries, not to mention three extended suspensions.

The list got longer late last week when ECU lost sophomore backup quarterback Cody Keith for the season with a nagging elbow problem. Junior linebacker Jeremy Grove is listed as out for the second unspecified period this season with a lingering shoulder/chest injury, and the Pirates likely will be without senior starting right tackle Adhem Elsawi (eye injury) when they take on Florida International on Saturday in Miami.

According to ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill, Kurt Benkert will become the sixth rookie this season to shed his redshirt, filling in for Keith, who played much of the second half in the Pirates’ rout of Southern Miss on Oct. 19.

“We activated Kurt Benkert (Sunday) night after we found out the news, and Kurt is now taking second-team reps,” McNeill said at Monday’s weekly news conference of the 6-foot-3, 206-pound Benkert, out of Island Coast High School in Cape Coral, Fla. “He’s excited. He stopped by the office, and he’s got a gleam in his eye.”

Grove hurt the right side of his chest during the Pirates’ win over Florida Atlantic on Sept. 5 and missed three games. He came back and saw limited action the last two contests and is now back on the shelf due to shoulder problems on the same side.

“Jeremy Grove’s shoulder is still bothering him so we’ll monitor his reps, and we’ll have him out right now, and I felt that way when he came back (at Tulane on Oct. 12), thought that we had to monitor what we did with Jeremy,” McNeill said.

He added that junior linebacker Jake Geary (knee) was “feeling a little bit better (Sunday) night, so I’m hoping we can increase Jake’s activity with (strength coach) Jeff Connors.”

Although Elsawi is listed as questionable for Saturday’s 6 p.m. kickoff, McNeill called the lineman’s status “questionable to doubtful” and confirmed sophomore Tre Robertson will get his first career start.

That adjustment will help to integrate a seventh freshman into the Pirates’ depth chart.

With backup left tackle Stewart Hinson needing to help Robertson in the event Elsawi cannot play, the Pirates need a new backup on the left side, and first-year player Larry Williams has gotten that nod.

Senior tight end/fullback Zico Pasut remains sidelined with a foot injury, and McNeill said he still hopes the versatile team leader can return in time for a bowl game. Pasut’s injury paved the way for true freshman Devaris Brunson, who was a promising enough linebacker to shed his redshirt but is now double-dipping as a backup to Pasut in the offense.

Two freshmen saw their debut seasons cut short when they fell victim to injuries. Receivers Davon Grayson (17 receptions, 168 yards, four touchdowns) and Jimmy Williams (5-66) were knocked out with knee and foot injuries, respectively.

Still playing and learning on the fly, however, are starting H receiver Isaiah Jones (22-186-2), nose tackle Demetri McGill (four games, three tackles) and cornerback DaShawn Benton (five games, tackle).

Also out for the season are sophomore running back Cory Hunter (knee) and sophomore defensive end Jeton Beavers (back).

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com or 252-329-9595.

via The Daily Reflector.


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