New offensive line coach Allen Mogridge is not letting the grass grow under his feet in his new home as offensive line coach at East Carolina. Mogridge, who takes over for the legendary Steve Shankweiler, returned briefly to campus from the recruiting trail on Wednesday and was soon gone again in the search for prospective players.
“I flew into Greenville this morning to put my feet down,” Mogridge said Wednesday afternoon. “We have some new guys coming in the program, so I wanted to spend a little time with them, and now I am in the car headed to South Carolina.”
Mogridge was following up on some previously-laid recruiting foundations.
“The way it works is we all have areas we go to and then we go to those areas, we find what we find, and then you double back at the end of the period and you’re just going to see linemen,” said Mogridge, who played for Mack Brown at UNC before Brown exited for Texas. “This may not be my area, but they said, ‘Hey man, there’s a good lineman at such and such high school.’ I go track back across the state of South Carolina and see all the linemen that all the other coaches found that they liked. I was just in Georgia doing the same thing. I doubled back through north Georgia, Atlanta area.
“I wanted to come back and … touch base with my guys because everybody’s coming back to summer school and all that. Hadn’t seen them since we let them go, so just wanted to make sure I get my face in front of them. And then we ride on out.”
Working the Fayetteville area
Mogridge recruits an area in the state that includes Fayetteville.
“There’s a bunch of different counties, but to generalize, it’s Fayetteville and then all those counties above Fayetteville, all the way up to Clayton just next to Raleigh,” Mogridge said, “That’s what I have in the state. And then obviously, we go all in the state as well. And then I have in Florida, because I’ve been down there for the past 12 years, so I have essentially the middle, I-4 literally from one side of the state to the other. Just to generalize, Tampa to Daytona.
“I’ve recruited in the state of Florida since 2008 when Coach (Butch) Davis hired me at North Carolina and he stuck me down in there. I started on the West Coast side. How this profession works, with my last three stops, it’s been Central Florida, Florida International, and then South Florida. I’ve been in the state for a while. That’s the area there. And then obviously, I’ll point anywhere for a linemen that fits what the Pirates need. We’ll go get a look.
“Fayetteville has always been one of those areas where there’s a really good talent base and the coaches seem to be great people. I had a chance to go spend some time in there earlier this spring, and I’m really excited about that area, too. I think it’s got some history with East Carolina as well. I think there’s been some pretty solid players from that part of the state that have come on over to ECU. I’m excited about that for sure.”
‘You got more’
Mogridge has been mobile in his coaching career and he knows what’s important in joining a program and getting off to a good start with his position group.
“Most important is the kids,” he said. “Again, you’ve got to get in, you’ve got to earn their trust, and they have to earn my trust. … This thing ain’t me stand up on the desk and yell down at you. This is us. What this is going to be is a partnership that we can build since January 3, when I was hired. Working the phones with them and then being able to get in there and get the kids and just get in front of them. Figure out who they are, what makes them tick, and just build the relationship. I think the relationship is the key across the board, especially to the offensive line. We’re one of the few groups. It’s five playing in as one, and you get one guy off path or one guy off the reservation a little bit and we’ve got a problem.
“It’s getting with the kids and getting the relationship and earning their trust and building that strong relationship. And then just pushing them. Just making them see a different version of themselves. You know what I mean? Just pushing them, helping them see that there’s more. ‘You got more, man. You got more than you think you have.’ But probably if you said to me what’s the most, I would say the relationship piece, getting in the room. That’s obviously the most important piece because without that, it couldn’t go very far at all.”
Shank’s sizeable shoes
Shankweiler is working as director of high school and alumni relations for ECU football as of April 1. His four stints as an assistant coach for the Pirates from 1987-91, 1998-02, 2005-09 and 2018-22, included nine bowl trips. He was on staff for the Peach Bowl following the 1991 season when ECU topped N.C. State, 37-34, to finish 11-1 with a No. 9 ranking.
“Coach Shank is awesome,” Mogridge said. “I’ve known Coach Shank for quite a while, and he does a great job. He’s done a great job pretty much everywhere he’s been, and I know he’s got quite a history with East Carolina. It’s funny because I did coach at South Florida and he coached there as well. You roll through some high schools down there and there’s a lot of kids he coached that are in coaching now, and that’s what happens when you do it 40 some years. … He’s awesome. He’s obviously in our building, he’s right there.
“I can’t say enough great things about him and what he’s been able to do. I’m very humble and very grateful to be at East Carolina. I understand what the opportunity is, and I understand what this program is. Having gone to school in this state and been in this state long enough and then been in this conference as long as I’ve been, it’s guys like Coach Shankweiler that poured his whole self into it to get it going. No, I’m very well aware. That guy is as good as anybody that’s ever done it. We’ve got a reputation and a standard to uphold, and we’re going to do that. We do that every day.
The easiest thing in the world is for me to just sit here and talk about it and tell you what it’s going to be like. That’s what I tell the kids. I’m like, gosh, we can all stay in comfort. I can sit in the air condition there and say whatever I want to say, but when I’m out there on that grass and the temperature is what the temperature is, and wearing pads and you’ve got a deal. Talk don’t matter. That’s the thing. The standard is the standard every single day, and you work to meet that. That’s what ECU is, like Coach (Mike) Houston, I love our staff. I’m very humble, very grateful to be with this staff because we were talking about Coach Shankweiler, there’s some great men on this staff. There’s some great football coaches. Coach Houston, I love the way that we play football. I love the way that we practice football. There is a toughness. There’s an edge. When I think back to watching ECU from afar and then even every year at Central Florida when we would play them, that’s what I remember about this place. I’m excited.”
Mogridge said he was ready for another spring practice when the offseason sessions ended with the Purple-Gold game on April 8.
“In spring ball, we were able to see who we were,” Mogridge said. “See who can do what, who’s doing what. We were able to just get some base run game on the ground with some scheme-type stuff and being able to start to group some habits. Habits are formed with repetition, so we’ve got to just rep, rep, rep, but I was able to really see who can do what within the room and what we need to be better at and who we’ve got.
“We’ve got some new faces, as everybody knows, and there’ll be some new faces on that line. Really just establishing, ‘Hey, this is what we’re going to do. This is how we’re going to do it.’ Now the piece of it becomes really getting a fair assessment of, all right, this is what we got to be better at by the time we put these pads back on. Having a tactical plan with each young person of, ‘Okay, dude, what’s got to happen between now and now and the next time we roll for you to be a successful piece in this machine.'”
The Pirates open the season at Michigan on Sept 3. Mogridge talked about getting ready for the Wolverines.
“Details, details,” Mogridge said. ” … The details that have to happen for you to go have success. It’s not getting bored with the details and the habits that we have to create each and every day. Because I wish there was some magic potion or some pixie dust or something that I could just sprinkle on you and all of a sudden. But you don’t. You do that from your discipline, your details, and how you handle your life day in, day out. I ain’t been around a lot of pros. … But the guys that don’t live clean off the field usually aren’t the cleanest players. Just getting in your groove, don’t lose sight of the details. And then the reality of it is you’ve got to trust your training.
“We trust our training. That’s what you do. You train, learn to train, and then you trust it when you’re put in a position that you need it. Like the Navy SEALs. Those are the most awesome fighters in the world. The Navy SEALs, they just trust the process. They trust the process of it. And then when it’s go time, it’s go time. The thing about it is sometimes their number doesn’t even get called. They don’t know that Michigan is the opener, if that makes sense. What they do is they just trust the training and handle the details each and every day so that when the number is called, they’re ready to go.
“There’s process piece of it, building daily habits, and then just understanding the detail that goes into success. I say this all the time. I learned more about being a husband and a father in inside runs than I probably learned about angles and some of that stuff because it’s the details, man. It’s figuring out when you get punched in the mouth, when it’s hard, what are you going to do? What are you going to rely on? Are you going to reach through the air or are you just going to trust your training, get back in process, and go swing?”
Mogridge knew Coach Houston long before Mogridge joined the ECU staff.
“I had known Coach Houston for a while,” he said. “It’s pretty interesting now that we’re in the same building. He’ll say, ‘Hey, you used to work the UNC football camps.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I did.’ When he was coaching years ago. I know he was a high school coach when he was at LR (Lenoir-Rhyne), and it’s funny because I was in the state doing the same things, and then when I was coaching at the University of Buffalo, I would always come back and work the Carolina camps, the UNC camps. I would come back. Our paths had crossed multiple times. I can remember when he was coaching at LR and I was coaching at North Carolina, I think, I had that Hickory recruiting area, that I-77 all the way up to Blacksburg area.
“Our paths, we were a little more close than we realized, but he’s from Franklin. When he finished up at Franklin, there were some guys I played with that were coming in as freshmen, like eighth graders who were freshmen, and some people that I’m very close to that played with me in college, and then one that played at Tennessee. It’s that commonality. We’ve known one another. John Williams (ECU strength coach) was working in the weight room when I was a player, and I had worked with Chris Foster before. Coach Houston and I have known each other for a long time, and this is really the first opportunity we’ve had to be in the same foxhole. I’m pretty juiced up about it. I’m really excited. You know what I mean? I’m fired up. This place is blue collar, grit your teeth and swing first place, which gets me fired up. … It’s a hand in the dirt, head down.
“That’s an awesome quality for anyone or any place to be described as. I’m very fired up. I’m ready. We had 15 days of spring practice and I was like, dang, it’s over? What are we going to do? Let’s go. Let’s crank this thing back up so that we can get going. But that’s the nature of what we do. I’m excited about getting back with the guys and what this can be.”
Depth up front?
Depth is a necessity on the offensive front.
“I worked for Coach Davis, for Butch Davis, for two stints,” Mogridge said. “I worked with him at North Carolina, I worked for him there, and then I worked for him at Florida International. He would always talk about at Miami when they turned the corner, they were able to play more than five offensive linemen. One of the things that’s very big with him, and for us to be successful, we’re going to have to have some depth because very rarely can you make it through the grind of what the season is if you’re only playing five. Because just the nature of what we do, it’s a collision sport up front and those things, you’re going to have to have more than five.
“We have some guys that have played some football coming, but we also have some guys that haven’t gotten to play football yet that really did some nice things in the spring that I’m pretty excited about. Some young guys within our program. And then some guys that just maybe they’re not household names because those older cats had moved on, or whatever the case may be. For us to be humming, we need to be playing around eight. We need to have a good swing inside guy and a good swing tackle, and then maybe one more. Because what it does is it changes everything. It changes Tuesday practice, it changes Wednesday’s practice. Because if you know you’re going to go play, your preparation becomes different.
“There’s something to be said for, “Hey bro, hey, look, man, I see you sitting in back there and your pencil ain’t moving very much, but on the third drive of the game, I’m putting your butt in. If it don’t look right, then it’s going be on me and you, but you’re going in this game and you’re going to… Hey, you owe the Pirates something, too, bro.’
“Last time I checked, you were recruited to come here and play the position. What it does is it gives them a little ownership, too, and helps them in their day-to-day preparation. I think we’ve got to have depth. I’m excited. I think we will have depth. I think you’ll see some guys playing in there. Obviously, we can’t go in it with just five because it’s such a grind.
“You look at defensive lines and defensive lines, they roll. There’s a lot of teams. You’ll see the hole two deep for sure as it rolls in. That’s definitely something, but again, it goes back to the relationship that’s built from jump. Can I count on you? Are you accountable? Are you responsible? Are you dependable? And then the other piece is, are you predictable? If I tell Coach Houston, “I want to play Johnny,’ then Johnny better go show up. Johnny can’t go up because then I lose my credibility and you lose yours as well. The reality of it is it goes back to what I said before. The details, the rhythms, the routines, working your craft.
“Are you interested? Or are you invested? It’s crazy to me. A lot of people are interested. But when you’re invested, you truly are trying to do the things you say you’re going to do. That’s dangerous with me, too. I don’t just let us say things. We’re not just going to say, ‘Oh, I want to be a starter.’ Well, are you doing the thing starters do? Because I’m watching your day-to-day right now and you’re not. I want to be a good husband. Okay, then I better act like a good husband. If you want to be a starter, you have to do things starters do. If you want to be a good offensive lineman, you have to do things that good offensive linemen do. And then it’s clearly defining to them what those things are.
“At the end of the day, I think what we’re all trying to do, we all want to win football games, but at the end of the day, too, we want to build great men. I want each one of these dudes that I come in contact with after their time is over to hold it down in a job, be a dad, be a husband, and just be a great man. The reality of that is that goes back to your day-to-day rhythms and routines. Where are you putting your time in?
“That’s a whole lot of dang words to say that we’re going to play more than five linemen.”
With a first-year quarterback, the run game can take some pressure off the air attack and Coach Houston knows the value of that offensive element.
“This place has run the ball historically pretty good,” Mogridge said. “I’m excited about what I was able to see in the spring. We got a loaded running back room. We’ve got guys that can flat do it in that room. I know we’ve got one coming back from an injury (Rahjai Harris) that I can remember preparing for him, our defense preparing for him. We’ve got a really good running back. It’s going to be playing to their strengths, making sure that we can use them the most effective way we can, just like anybody in the country. It’s not rocket science. You’ve got to move the point, and that’s attitude, and that’s decisions. Every day, we’ve got to make decisions.
“We’ll run the inside, the outside zone, and we’ll have some gap scheme in there. I’m really excited with what I was able to see in the spring from our guys understanding concepts and being able to do those things, and then being able to use each of those running backs to their strength, … Use the pencil a little bit with it, and then what can the quarterback do to add to the run game? Are there wrinkles we can put in and things that he can do to loosen up the box a little bit with his feet and his ability to run?”
Mogridge was asked about the highlight of his coaching career.
“One thing that was really cool was winning the Mid-American Conference with the University of Buffalo, who was 119th in the country two years before that. Seeing that process end. That was a really cool moment. When you finally see the heavy lifting, the needle move. When you’ve had your hand in the dirt, you’ve been pounding that rock all day. You’ve just been punching, swinging with all your might, and then it finally culminates for you winning that conference championship. That was really, really cool.”
Mogridge’s oldest daughter, Liv, is in the volleyball program at UNC.
“We are a volleyball family,” said the ECU offensive line coach. “I have three daughters that all play volleyball, and they’re all pretty good. We have a 19-year-old, we have a 16-year-old, and we have an 11-year-old. Their mom played volleyball in high school, and then she was a rower at Carolina.
“I’ll tell you what. Jenny does an unbelievable job with them. I don’t know how she does the things she does, gets them to all the events and all the things that she does, because college football is pretty demanding with what we do with the season, the schedules we keep, and the off season recruiting. And then just the relationship piece with the kids in the room. We’re a huge volleyball family. We get after it.”