East Carolina football coach Mike Houston spoke with the news media via Zoom after a rainy practice on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, as the Pirates continued preparing for the season opener with American Athletic Conference rival Central Florida.
Houston said Thursday’s practice would be the last regular session of the week and that the focus would change to game situation simulations on Friday.
Houston commented on a number of individual players. He said that junior running back Darius Pinnix Jr. has had “a great preseason” and will be “a big part of the game plan for game one.” He indicated that freshman quarterback Ryan Stubblefield has accepted the challenge of deploying his significant athletic abilities to play wide receiver this season and that center Fernando Frye, a graduate student, has displayed leadership abilities and become “the general of the offensive line.”
In his second year at the helm of the Pirates, Houston expressed sorrow that only 50 tickets are allocated for players’ parents to attend the opener in 50,000-seat Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The tickets will be issued to the parents of upperclassmen. “You’re going to have parents miss the first game of their son’s career next Saturday,” he said. “… It’s hard for me when one player’s parents can be there and another player’s can’t. That’s just a tragedy.” University officials announced earlier this month that the opener will be closed to the public due to COVID-19 concerns.
In the absences of a throng of fans, there will likely be some enthusiastic cheering from the sidelines. Houston said that health officials will “test all 118 players three times next week. … So we expect all 118 — minus the current one positive (COVID-19 test) we have — to be on the sideline in some capacity for the game next week.” The player that will be absent due to the positive test was not identified.
Houston also responded to a question about the election season. “This summer we registered all of our players to vote,” he said. “… All of our players are either registered here to vote in Pitt county or by absentee ballot back home. … We’re making sure to have election day as an off day so that all of our coaches and players can participate.”
ECU and UCF will face off at noon on Sept. 26 (TV: ESPN+).
(CLICK PLAY BUTTON ON MEDIA PLAYER BELOW TO PLAY AUDIO OF HOUSTON’S PRESS CONFERENCE.)