The Pirates were hopeful they would have Harvey for one more season, but the NCAA didn’t rule in their favor this time. That means ECU has to find a way to replace the type of presence that created an AAC-record 25.5 tackles for loss, including a league-best 14.5 sacks, in a breakout 2018 senior season. That’s a ton of production to replace. In reality, no one man can replace that amount of game-changing plays, and it will likely take more than two or three, given the state of ECU’s roster.
ECU does return three other starters along the defensive line in senior end Kendall Futrell and senior defensive tackles Alex Turner and Jalen Price, but that trio combined for just 9.5 sacks last season. Each of those three will likely have to increase those numbers and the amount of quarterback hurries they created, from a season ago. They need help from juniors Chance Purvis and Chandon Hickerson, two players with game experience at defensive end. There are also a number of freshmen and sophomores along the defensive line who could blossom this season into contributors, but their exact roles in terms of pass-rushing remains to be seen.
East Carolina suffered two tough blows earlier this offseason when it was ruled rising junior Raequan Purvis’ playing career was over due to a birth defect, and redshirt freshman Chandler Medeiros severely injured his knee in spring practice. Purvis had been a major contributor the last two years at defensive tackle, serving as the top option behind Turner and Price. Medeiros redshirted last year, but was poised to help the depth of the position. Now he may have to miss the season.
The Pirates need at least 5-6 quality bodies to hold up through the course of a full season on the inside. Turner and Price are very strong, experienced options. Junior college transfer Hozey Haji-Badri should also help matters in his first year with the Pirates. Beyond that, ECU will likely be relying on inexperienced bodies. Sophomore D'Angelo McKinnie spent the spring practicing at tackle after playing tight end as a true freshman in 2018. Redshirt freshman Damir Faison, and true freshmen Keziah Everett and Immanuel Hickman all have upside, but need to continue maturing their bodies and minds for the rigors of the collegiate level.
This time last year, no one expected Harvey to do anything. It wasn’t until the start of preseason camp, and about a week into it, that the former running back started running with the first team at defensive end. The rest is history. Perhaps Houston’s staff - which is known for its player development at past stops - can get the most out of another unlikely player up front? Redshirt freshman Dorian Hardy is an obvious candidate to surprise, given his natural length and skill level. The redshirt freshman spent last season developing and - if he can have a strong preseason camp - should be able to crack the rotation at defensive end and help off the edge this fall.
Chance Purvis was also dominant at times last offseason and looked like he’d be the one with the breakout season, until Harvey emerged. Maybe this is Purvis’ year to shine? Futrell has been a solid contributor the last three years as well, but has yet to become the dominant defensive end many envisioned when he owned practice at times as a sophomore and junior. This could be the year as a senior.
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