Monday was another key step as the Pirates roll on toward opening day in Raleigh.
The East Carolina football squad put the pads on for the first time. Those pads will stay on now for most of the rest of the month.
Practice in pads is much different, especially in the heat.
“I thought we continued to make strides today,” said first-year coach Mike Houston in his post-practice meeting with the area media. “I told the kids we would be in pads virtually every day from now until game week. I thought there was good and bad, which is what happens when you incorporate contact. Our offensive linemen continued to improve and responded well to contact with solid execution.”
That offensive line is led by veteran assistant coach Steve Shankweiler. Shank is in his fourth stint with the Pirates. He’s served three separate five-year runs in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s.
There is just something comforting about seeing Shankweiler, offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick, and director of football administration Dale Steele back with ECU. These guys have been here through the good times. They know how to win and they know how to win at East Carolina University.
Mike Houston also knows how to win. He’s done it everywhere he has been. He has a plan. Players will do it his way or they won’t be Pirates long.
I was most impressed on the first day of practice, when every single player as they got to the gate buckled their chinstrap and hustled to their assigned slot to open practice. They were there to do a job, and they certainly looked the part.
The pads certainly added a level to this team for camp. Monday’s first work in pads came on a hot day. It will get much hotter, though, as the month continues.
Houston knows the execution must follow as the pads go on.
“Everyone needs to improve their fundamentals with the pads on, but we’ll continue to work on it and get better tomorrow,” Houston said.
Through three practices in fall camp it appears that this team has shown improvement with each workout.
Friday’s first practice seemed to irritate the first year coach. He said he was really disappointed in his older players. He called for them to get better and to get better quickly.
“I thought our young guys showed good work habits today,” Houston said after that first workout. “Some of the older guys need to get better. That’s part of changing some habits. They need to learn that they can’t tap out during practice and expect to play in the game. I would a lot rather they give us three hard reps than a walkout six. We are in the process of changing habits and hopefully, that will come quickly to them.”
On Saturday Houston said his veterans most certainly answered the bell.
“We challenged the older players in our meeting yesterday,” Houston said. “It was going to be a tough day for them today if they didn’t respond, but they showed maturity leadership and took it to heart. It might have hurt their feelings a little bit, but they showed some pride and responded well.”
That response continued to start the week on Monday.
The Pirates will continue to work towards the team’s first scrimmage, which is set for this Saturday morning. The team will also scrimmage the next week before settling on a depth chart for the opener against North Carolina State.
Happy football season, Pirate Nation!