You would never know that this East Carolina football program was just 6-18 over the last two years at Media Day on Saturday. Optimism poured out of the players and coaches with the cameras and microphones rolling.
Over the years I’ve occasionally designated one Pirate as “Captain Soundbite.” It’s kind of a running joke within the media that follows ECU. Through the years they’ve included the likes of Jerry Dillon, Zeek Bigger, and Zay Jones. I don’t designate someone every year, but we have had some really good kids come through the program that were always good for a great comment.
This year’s “Captain Soundbite” is senior offensive lineman Garrett McGhin.
Garrett reminds me of the ‘Cowardly Lion’ from “The Wizard of Oz.” His long curls and various expressions make me laugh when I make the comparison.
Make no mistake about it, there is nothing cowardly about the ECU captain. Garrett McGhin is the leader on the offensive line, and he wants nothing more than to turn this program around in his final year as a Pirate.
“This is it,” McGhin told me on Saturday. “There is no tomorrow. I want to come out and give it all that I have each and every day. I want my legacy as a Pirate to be one of the leaders on the team that began the big turnaround.”
That seemed to be the theme from all of the players. The proverbial chip on the Pirates’ shoulder is back and perhaps bigger than ever. These players know that the last couple of years have not been indicative of what this program is all about.
The Pirates got a nice gift before the start of camp as they moved into their brand new locker room. Pirate Video released a short clip of the team’s reactions, which included a tear or two from some of the seniors.
I had a chance to take in a part of the team’s first practice. There is a different feel in the workouts, led by new defensive coordinator David Blackwell and new special teams coordinator Kirk Doll.
“The locker room deal is neat,” said Blackwell. “Heck, I was here when we moved into the old locker room. And Coach Doll was here to move into the original locker room that we were moving out of. We’ve come full circle.”
Blackwell and Doll may be the biggest keys to this defense changing things around in a big way.
Blackwell says the guys are really buying into his system. Doll has most of the special teams installed already. Blackwell will need Doll’s special teams to help set the table for field position to give his squad a real shot at success.
On the other side of the football, offensive coordinator Tony Petersen says he’s never been around an offense that is this far along this early in camp. Petersen has a young but talented quarterback room that he is very pleased with, so far.
Petersen and head coach Scottie Montgomery have basically said that the quarterback job is Reid Herring’s to lose. Former D.H. Conley star Holton Ahlers and Kingsley Ifedi will continue to push Herring throughout the summer.
Petersen says the competition will make everyone better.
“We want Holton and Kingsley to both play well and win the job,” said Petersen. “Reid is just much further along with the offense, but those other two are talented and will certainly continue to get looks.”
It was nice to hear so much positive talk at media day. Rarely did you hear anyone refer to the back-to-back 3-9 campaigns. This Pirate team seems to have put the past behind them.
We just hope the future is much brighter, starting with North Carolina A&T on Sept. 1.