Pirates chosen last on its side of standings

NEWPORT, R.I. – East Carolina has been picked to finish sixth in the East Division of the American Athletic Conference as voted on by members of the media.

The Pirates enter their fifth season in the league. 

They picked up a total of 41 points, finishing just behind Connecticut (51). UCF, who received 19 of a possible 30 votes to win the league title, were listed on 25 ballots in the East Division race racking up 175 total points. USF (140) got five first place votes and was picked second followed by Temple (132) and Cincinnati (91). 

Memphis was named the favorite in the West Division for the second straight year, as the Tigers claimed 23 of 30 first place votes for 171 points. Houston (146) garnered four first place votes and was picked second. Rounding out the West Division are Navy (129), SMU (72), Tulane (68) and Tulsa (44).

The fourth conference championship game will be played Saturday, Dec. 1, at the home site of the division champion with the best conference record. 

Under the direction of third-year head coach Scottie Montgomery, ECU returns 12 of 22 positional starters (five offense, seven defense) and four on special teams. The Pirates also welcome back 40 lettermen from last year’s squad (17 offense, 19 defense, four specialists). A year ago, ECU turned in a 3-9 overall record and a 2-6 mark in The American, finishing tied for fourth in the East Division. 

ECU opens the 2018 season at home against N.C. A&T inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 1, with a 6 p.m. scheduled kickoff and will be televised on ESPN3. The Pirates' first American game of the season is set for Saturday, Sept. 22 vs. USF in Tampa, Fla.

Jones named to AAC's Fifth Anniversary Team

Former ECU wide receiver Zay Jones, who wrapped up his four-year career in 2016 as the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision’s career and single-season receptions leader, has been named to the AAC's Fifth Anniversary Team. The team was selected from votes by the 12-member institutions, local and national media members, and a fan ballot. 

A two-year team captain and All-AAC honoree, Jones became the owner of the FBS career record against Navy on Nov. 19, 2016 before finishing with 399 catches. In addition to his 158 receptions as a senior in 2016, he also set AAC and ECU single-season standards with 1,746 receiving yards. Jones is one of only 19 FBS receivers all-time with over 4,000 receiving yards (4,279). 

Jones topped the FBS level in three categories during his senior campaign - receptions, receptions per game (13.2) and receiving yards per game (145.5). In 12 games he caught a personal-best eight touchdown passes and registered nine double-triples (catches-yards), which included a career-high 22 receptions for 190 yards at South Carolina on Sept. 17. His 22 grabs against the Gamecocks were the most by an NCAA FBS receiver in a game in 2016 and was one shy of an all-time NCAA FBS record. 

The Austin, Texas native was a finalist for the 2016 Biletnikoff Award, William V. Campbell Trophy and the Senior CLASS Award, while also earning CoSIDA Academic All-America (second-team) honors as a communications major before graduating in December with a 3.547 grade point average. He was selected to a combined 14 All-America squads for his play on the field, including first-team nods by Walter Camp, The Sporting News, ESPN.com, SB Nation, Pro Football Focus and College Sports Madness, while being formally recognized as a Heisman Trophy candidate by the Heisman Trophy Trust. 

A second-round selection by the Buffalo Bills in the 2017 National Football League Draft, Jones appeared in 15 games hauling down 27 passes for 316 yards (11.7 ypr) with a pair of touchdowns during his rookie campaign. He caught his first career pass (21 yards) against the New York Jets in his professional debut (season opener) and eight weeks later scored his first touchdown on a 10-yard pass from Tyrod Taylor, which was also against the Jets.