COLUMBIA, S.C. — Before settling in as the starting quarterback for East Carolina, Philip Nelson made stops at Minnesota and Rutgers.
Nelson threw for 873 yards and 8 touchdowns and rushed for 184 yards as a freshman for his home-state Golden Gophers in 2012. As a nine-game starter the next season, he passed for 1,306 yards, rushed for 364 yards and accounted for 13 total touchdowns.
Seeking more pass-happy pastures, Nelson left Minnesota at the conclusion of the 2013 season, but his time at Rutgers was short-lived.
After going through spring drills with the Scarlet Knights, Nelson was charged with assault during an early summer trip home to Mankato, Minn.
ECU added him as a walk-on in August of last year. Through two games this season, against N.C. State and Western Carolina, Nelson has completed 81 percent of his passes for 695 yards with 6 touchdowns and an interception.
South Carolina coach Will Muschamp offered high praise for the 6-foot-1, 216-pound quarterback.
“Very accurate, will play on Sunday (in the NFL),” Muschamp said. “Strong in the pocket, has legs, feels very comfortable in what they’re doing offensively.”
ECU offensive coordinator Tony Peterson employs a system that’s predicated on a short, quick passing game. It looks similar to the “Air Raid” system former ECU coach Ruffin McNeill ran while he was in Greenville, N.C.
“A lot of carryover, a lot of very similar concepts,” Muschamp said. “I don’t know if Coach Peterson and Coach McNeill’s paths have ever crossed, but there is a lot of likeness. Coach McNeill did a great job of recruiting skill kids. I can tell you that.”
Nationally, the Pirates are 10th in total offense, averaging 566 yards per game. Through the air, they’re averaging 355 yards, which is 13th. The pass efficiency rating of 183.47 is 11th.
“They have a lot of really good skill kids, they really do,” Muschamp said. “James Summers started some for them last year at quarterback, is a running back, receiver, does a lot of different stuff for them. He’s a big, athletic guy who is hard to tackle. Very good athlete.”
Summers is second among ECU rushers with 136 yards. He and Anthony Scott, who leads the team with 161 rushing yards, both have a pair of rushing touchdowns.
Zay Jones leads the team with 17 catches for 253 yards while Quay Johnson is second with 16 receptions. Scott is third on the team with 15 grabs, but second with 139 yards receiving and first with 3 touchdowns.
“Really good ball skills down the field, vertical speed down the field, but they’re very athletic at the skill positions and what they’re doing offensively really fits well,” Muschamp said.