East Carolina moved to the next phase of its preseason camp Tuesday morning, turning in a two-and-a-half hour full-pad workout at Hight Field inside the Cliff Moore Practice Complex.
The first full-gear session comes on the eve of the Pirates’ first of three scheduled two-a-days over the next two weeks, preceding similar agendas for Monday, Aug. 12 and Thursday, Aug. 15. ECU will begin the morning’s full-pad practice at 8:45 before returning in shells at 4:15 p.m.
”Today was another good day for us,” head coach Ruffin McNeill said. “We kept emphasizing fundaments and making sure we’re on the same page on all three sides of the ball. I thought we came out and attacked our practice plan and got a lot of quality reps in. These guys have been really cooperative and coachable early on and you can see their hunger to get better, and that has produced good team chemistry.
”Now we turn to our focus on getting better during film study, have a couple of walk-throughs then get a good lift in with Coach (Jeff) Connors before looking at more film. During camp the daily process is the same, but we have to make sure we continue to do the right things and get better as a team.”
Once again under cooler temperatures that reached into the mid-70’s, Tuesday’s practice consisted of screen drills, specialized one-on-one matchups, ball security and extended team sessions against scouts followed by daily individual segments. The Pirates also worked on first-and-10 offense and defense, while emphasizing special teams and kickoff return responsibilities.
Senior DE Lee Pegues (concussion) was held out of practice … McNeill stated he would be re-evaluated later this week.
Wednesday’s Practice Time: 8:45 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.; 4:15 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Season Opener: Aug. 31 vs. Old Dominion in Greenville (7 p.m.)
Today’s “Q&A” format will highlight the Pirates’ defensive line:
Defensive Line Coach Marc Yellock
Your unit returns two of three starters, including preseason All-Conference USA media picks Lee Pegues (DE) and Terry Williams (NT), and features quality depth in ends Terrell Stanley and Johnathon White. How does that type of experience benefit ECU's 3-4 package and your outlook for 2013? ”The benefit is being able to play multiple guys through the course of a game. I don’t believe in playing one particular guy for 60-70 snaps in a game, it’s just unproductive in my opinion. So having quality depth helps when you have guys that are injured. On the D-Line bodies are twisting and turning everywhere, so being able to rotate new guys in is key. Coach McNeill and Coach Kirkpatrick have done a great job recruiting and bringing in that depth. Our goals are to stop the run and continue to work on our pass rush. The scheme that Coach Smith has brought in is allowing us to get on the edges and up the field more to make plays.”
Speaking of the 3-4, coordinator Rick Smith has talked about giving the scheme many more multiple looks this year. Has that changed your approach so far and will it perhaps result in different responsibilities this fall? “The approach hasn’t changed for us. We have a veteran group that is going on the third year playing the same system. So we are just fine-tuning different aspects of our game, working on leverage issues and some new installation items.”
Many teams run the spread offense these days, so how much has the core philosophy of the defensive line in college football been revised since your playing days at ECU? “It seems that more teams are going no-huddle these days, so the game has gotten faster even since I’ve played. Defense is still defense. You have to stop the zone read, which is the new wrinkle in today’s offense with the quarterback running the ball, as well as try to stop the quick passes. That’s where depth comes in and we have built our line around that. When I played, if you were a first-team guy you played somewhere around 50 snaps a game. Today you have to be able to roll three groups out their with the pace of the game. Also, with the spread offense there is a lot of running involved, so having depth plays and fresh bodies is key.”
Are ends and tackles interchangeable or do they require a completely different skillset? “I think they are all interchangeable. During my positional drills we teach everyone the same concept so if someone goes down or if someone is tired, we can get the best person on the field at the right position. We saw that last year with Michael Brooks moving from the nose to the end spot. We also moved (Lee) Pegues and (Terrell) Stanley to the nose positions. It just gives us different looks and keeps the best guys on the field.”
Who are some younger players that have caught your eye, either in the spring or during the first few days of camp? “Three guys that have really impressed me so far have been Mike Myers, Demetri McGill and Randall Anderson. All three have been working their tails off, learning from the older guys and listening to everything we talk about. Right now they are further along than the freshmen last year at this time. So that’s encouraging, but there is still a lot of room for them to improve.”