defensive coordinator and secondary coach
Rick Smith, pictured during a game at South
Florida last season, has been mapping out
personnel plans as spring ball approaches.
He's also recovering from offseason surgery
to repair significant shoulder damage
suffered when he took an accidental hit
during a scout team scrimmage last
September. (Archive photo by Al Myatt)
Smith had an agonizing 2014
football season and it
wasn't just the heartbreak
of losses to Cincinnati and
Central Florida in the final
seconds that stressed East
More from Al Myatt...
Temple wins on ECU's Senior
— Temple overcame a fast
start by East Carolina on
Senior Night to take a 70-56
American Athletic Conference
win over the Pirates in
Williams Arena at Minges
Coliseum on Thursday night.
A 3-pointer by Terry
Whisnant gave ECU an 11-3
lead with 17:14 left in the
first half, but the Owls
(21-9, 12-5 AAC) rallied to
go ahead to stay, 30-27, on
a 3-pointer by Will Cummings
with 5:20 left in the first
Story & photos...
White drives to the
basket in a 70-56
loss to Temple
Thursday night. The
sophomore guard led
the Pirates with 13
points. (Photo by W.A.
Next: ECU at Houston
| Sunday, 4 pm
| TV: ESPNN |
Pirates enjoy baseball
GREENVILLE — East
Carolina defeated Old
Dominion 9-7 on Wednesday as
2,155 made their way to
Clark-LeClair Stadium on a
great afternoon to be
outside. The Pirates (6-5)
scored twice in the seventh
inning to snap a tie score
at 5 and ECU maintained the
Next: ECU vs.
Monmouth | Friday, 4
Pack shuts out Pirates
RALEIGH — N.C.
State's Logan Ratledge hit a
two-run homer in the bottom
of the fifth inning on
Tuesday afternoon and the
Wolfpack went on to deal
East Carolina its first
shutout of the season by a
7-0 margin at Doak Field.
Pirates set sights on N.C. State
weather has certainly thrown a curve
ball at the East Carolina baseball
season so far. There has yet to be
one of those “beautiful day for
baseball” type days. In fact, the
weather has been much more suited
for duck hunting than diamond
from Brian Bailey...
Audio: The Brian
Brian Bailey Show
airs on Pirate Radio
1250 on Mondays at
6:30 p.m. Brian's
guest this week was
Pirates rally past Albany
GREENVILLE — East
Carolina came back from an
early 2-0 deficit to move
above .500 for the season
with a 5-3 win against
Albany at Clark-LeClair
Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Great Danes (1-5) took a
2-0 lead in the top of the
second before the Pirates
scored twice in the bottom
of the third. ...
ECU breaks through on the
ORLANDO, FL — Terry Whisnant
made a 3-pointer from the
right side with 1:04 left
for a 66-64 East Carolina
lead and the Pirates made
enough free throws down the
stretch on Saturday
afternoon at Central Florida
to nail down their first
road win of the season,
Next: ECU vs. Temple
| Thursday, 7 pm
| TV: ESPNU |
Pirates start fast in 14-3
GREENVILLE — East
Carolina scored six times in
the first inning and had
three more multi-run frames
in a 14-3 win over Albany at
Clark-LeClair Stadium on
Saturday. The Pirates (4-4)
have a chance to climb over
.500 as the three-game
series is scheduled for
completion with a 1 p.m.
game today. ...
Pirate pitchers shut down
GREENVILLE — Evan
Kruczynski pitched seven
innings without allowing
Albany a run as East
Carolina took a 5-1 win at
Clark-LeClair Stadium on
Friday. The Pirates were
scheduled to play in the
Irish Classic in Cary but
that event was canceled due
to snow in central North
Carolina. The Great Danes
were enlisted for a
three-game series to fill
the weekend void. ...
Evaluation simple on QB
East Carolina quarterback
situation will get a lot of
Dave Nichol's attention in
the offseason with the exit
of Shane Carden, who started
for most of the last three
seasons and recently took
part in the NFL combine
after a record breaking
college career and a couple
of conference offensive
player of the year awards.
More from Al Myatt...
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Rick Smith had an agonizing 2014 football season and it
wasn't just the heartbreak of losses to Cincinnati and Central Florida
in the final seconds that stressed East Carolina's defensive
Smith had his right arm in a sling on signing day last
month, an indication of the physical torment he endured during a season
in which his unit helped the Pirates into the Top 25 and contend for the
American Athletic Conference championship in their first year in the
"On Sept. 18, the Thursday prior to the North Carolina
game, the scout team, I told them to reload a play," Smith said
Wednesday. "'Redo the play because you did it wrong.' I was talking to
one of the corners about the way I wanted him to play a sprint-out pass.
The quarterback for the scout team didn't wait for me to tell them to
start the play over and run it again. They just lined up and ran it
again. I wasn't paying attention and (strong safety) Lamar Ivey, on a
full sprint, hit me on the left side and knocked me into the ground and
landed on top of me.
"I tore all the ligaments off my ball joint of my right
shoulder. Tore the labrum off. Tore the rotator cuff completely off.
"It was dislocated. They had to pull it back over the top
and sew it back together."
Smith waited until after ECU completed an 8-5 season and
a 5-3 maiden voyage through the AAC before undergoing additional
repairs. Thursday marked eight weeks since his surgery.
"I had to wait until after the bowl game to have surgery
so I didn't get a lot of sleep during the season," Smith said.
Smith, who will be 67 next week, already has one element
of his personal game plan in place for 2015.
"I'm just going to get real deep this year," he said.
Smith analyzed some of the more excruciating moments of
his second season on Ruffin McNeill's staff and examined defensive
personnel as the program goes into the start of spring practice on March
"We've got to get better in the secondary," he said.
"We've got to know the difference between quick throws and play action.
I didn't think our corners played as well as they needed to even though
we did some things really well. That's the first thing as far as the
ECU continued to be stingy in its rush defense after
allowing an average of 116.7 yards in its final season in Conference USA
in 2013. That was Smith's first season back with the Pirates after three
years at South Florida. He was secondary coach at ECU from 2005 to 2009,
helping ECU to C-USA titles the last two seasons.
"We were decent against the run," Smith said in somewhat
of an understatement regarding last season's defensive unit.
The Pirates allowed just 111.8 yards per game on the
ground in 2014. That ranked 11th among 125 Football Bowl Subdivision
"We were OK getting off the field," Smith said. "Out of
178 possessions, we had 131 stops, which means we didn't give up a
touchdown 73.6 percent of the time. We forced punts 79 times. We did
some good things.
"To win the (AAC), we have to do better (in late game
situations). We lost to Cincinnati. We had a chance to win the game."
came back for a 54-46 win
after the Pirates had rallied for a 46-45 advantage with 1:02 left to
"We were on the field the last play of the game against
Central Florida and we didn't get it done," Smith said.
"I thought we played well enough to win against Florida
but we gave up the 86-yard pass in the third quarter, which didn't help
us any. We've got to eliminate the big plays."
"We've got some really good players we've got to replace.
It's going to be hard to replace Brandon Williams, who was a great
linebacker for us."
Williams was second on the team behind Zeek Bigger in
tackles with 54 solo stops and 70 assists.
"It's going to be hard to replace (defensive lineman)
Chrishon Rose. Lamar Ivey (strong safety) played well for us. Those guys
are going to be hard to replace."
The last play against Central Florida
was a stunner on Senior Night.
Knights quarterback Justin Holman completed a 51-yard Hail Mary pass for
a 32-30 UCF win.
Smith has studied the closing sequence. The coverage
broke down on several levels. Smith also questioned what he might have
done differently from a personnel standpoint.
"I made a mistake, judgement-wise, on who we had back
there," he said.. We had (Dayon) Pratt back there, who's a linebacker,
jumping up to bat the ball. We had Dominique Lennon behind him. Pratt
jumped too early. Poor judgment on the deep ball by him. He's a
linebacker. How many times does he catch deep balls? A month before
that, Dave Nichol (new offensive coordinator), had talked to me about
putting one of those tall receivers like Cam Worthy back there but I
didn't listen to him. I should have made the change.
"The other thing is, Pratt was a really good receiver in
high school. We never worked on that defensive scheme at night. Judging
the ball at night is a lot different than judging it during the day.
Every Thursday we did that play with Pratt.
"Another thing is that we had three guys who were wrong
on that play. (DaShaun) Amos came out of man coverage. He was supposed
to be on the receiver (Breshad Perriman) that caught it. You can see him
at the five-yard line just stopping and letting the guy keep going. He
should stay on coverage and try to strip the ball. Dominique Lennon was
supposed to be five yards behind Pratt in case he tipped the ball up or
he missed it but he's in front of Pratt.
"So you've got Pratt, poor judgment. Domonique Lennon did
not do what he's supposed to do and the nickel back came off so we've
got three critical areas which cost us a game, two DBs and a linebacker.
"We didn't play it well, probably didn't have the right
people back there but that's something we can correct."
The ensuing bowl setback came with ECU playing
shorthanded. The Pirates didn't have senior nose tackle Terry Williams
and junior free safety Dominique Lennon in
a 28-20 loss to Florida
in the Birmingham Bowl. On the offensive side, running backs Breon Allen
and Marquez Grayson were missing in action.
"Domonique Lennon had been beaten out anyway," Smith
said. "He wasn't the starter anymore because Travon Simmons beat him out
because Travon was making more plays. Where it hurt, was I didn't get to
rest Travon with Domonique and Domonique had two good arms whereas
Travon Simmons had surgery on his wrist and was in a cast. So was Lamar
Ivey. We had two safeties in casts.
"Terry Williams. We missed him six games the first year I
was back and Rose played great. Terry not being at the bowl game I don't
think had any affect on us at all. ... Demage Bailey played great at
nose. (Demetri) McGill played good. We played Rose at end. We played the
run pretty good without Terry. Terry wasn't a great pass rusher anyway.
"I think what hurt us was we've got two safeties that
missed a lot of tackles. They didn't tackle well because they were
tackling with one arm. We didn't have any depth there because of
An 86-yard scoring catch and run by Ahmad Fulwood down
the ECU sideline completed the Gators' scoring on Jan. 3 and provided
the SEC entry with a 28-14 lead with 11:20 left in the third quarter.
Smith has studied that play, too.
"Speed had something to do with it because we couldn't
catch him but the corner didn't make the tackle," said Smith, who has
coached on staffs at Alabama and Baylor among his stops, which also
include an unbeaten team at Tulane in 1997 when he was defensive
coordinator for the Green Wave. "The safety, who was a redshirt
freshman, Travon Simmons, went inside the blocker. If he had stayed
outside the blocker and turned it in, Brandon Williams was there for a
10-yard gain. We had everybody else running to the ball, too. The
safety, Travon Simmons, jumps inside that blocker, (Fulwood) hits that
crease and we couldn't catch him.
"If we had stayed outside the blocker, if that receiver
had stayed outside, the safety would have made the tackle. If he had cut
in, I promise you Brandon Williams would have made that tackle."
As ECU goes forward from a competitive effort against the
Gators, which saw the Pirates accrue a 536-339 lead in total yardage,
the defensive line should remain solid.
"Losing Rose I think is the biggest loss up front but we
get Terrell Stanley back," Smith said.
Stanley missed 2014 following injuries from an automobile
"I feel like we're going to be really good up front,"
Smith said. "We've got Terrell Stanley back, who started for us the year
before. We've got Johnathan White back. We've got McGill back. Demage
Bailey is a great athlete and he's got great strength. The guys who have
played a lot of football for us, it's Johnathan White, Terrell Stanley,
Fred Presley, McGill, (K'Hardree) Hooker played a lot for us. (Mike)
Myers played a lot. You've got seven guys up front for three positions
who have played a lot. You've got Kirk Donaldson coming back, who will
be a sophomore coming off an injury. ... You've got two or three
redshirt freshmen. You've got Shaun James, who will be a redshirt
freshman. You've got Markel Winters, who will be a redshirt freshman.
You've got Kyron Speller, who just got here in January. Depth-wise, that
D-line, we've got 12 bodies for three positions so we're pretty much
four deep. I feel like we'll be fine on the D-line."
The inside linebackers were a strength last season.
"Zeek (Bigger) is back," Smith said. "At mike
linebacker we've got some bodies. Zeek will be a senior. Right now, he's
backed up by a walk-on, Cam White. You've got Joe Carter, who's a
redshirt sophomore who has a chance to be a decent player. We feel OK at
mike. Drayvon Fairley is also there. You've got four guys there.
"Right now at buck, the kid that's really gotten better,
Jordan Williams was our back-up last year. He's a walk-on. ... He's had
a great offseason program. He's lost a little weight. He ran a sub-4.6
(seconds) this week in the 40 (yards). He went out there as our back-up
buck last year and played some. You've got Ray Tillman who played a lot
last year as a true freshman. We've got Tony Baird, who just got here
who's a big kid (6-3, 210) so we've got seven bodies at linebacker. We
don't need to forget about (Devaris) Brunson, who played some. He was on
the field and tore his knee up. We got that year back but he's still not
completely recovered but we'll have him full speed in the summer and in
the fall. ... We went out and signed a junior college kid specifically
for that position in Darius Wright, who's got three years to play two.
... He has real good speed. We feel like somebody will step up and we'll
be able to replace Brandon."
Brandon Williams won a place in Smith's heart last
season. Williams was in on 11 tackles against Florida.
"You watch tape and the kid just made play after play
after play," Smith said. "He was a great leader, too. He's going to be
the one I think we miss the very most."
The outside linebacking corps loses Maurice Falls but
returns Montese Overton, Pratt, Pat Green, Joe Allely and Reece Speight
Smith is secondary coach in addition to being defensive
"I didn't think we played real good at corner last year,"
he said. "Josh Hawkins started out at field corner. The first four ball
games of the year, he played as good as anybody could play. Then he kind
of went into a mental staleness. I don't know what you call it but he
just didn't play well. I didn't really have anybody I trusted behind
"I probably waited too long before I shook it up back
there. Into the boundary, Detric Allen did not play as well this year as
he did last year. I was backing him up with DaShawn Benton, who's really
not a corner. I knew that. I tried to hide him. ... To the field (in
spring practice) it'll be Josh Hawkins, Travis Phillips, who will be a
redshirt sophomore, and Corey Seargent. He just got here. He started
school in January. He ran a sub-4.5 this week in the 40. Those three
guys will be battling it out at field corner — Hawkins, Phillips and
"I'm going to move Rocco Scarfone into the boundary (from
field corner). DaShaun Amos is going into the boundary and then we're
going to put (Nhyre) Quinerly, who has also just got here. ... I'm going
to look at Bobby Fulp, who was our back-up free safety last year. I'm
going to look at him at corner. He's a 6-4 kid who has great athletic
ability. I don't know who it's going to be. I'm thinking into the
boundary, it's probably going to be Scarfone or Amos because they're
older kids but I wouldn't count Quinerly out.
"Right now, to the field, I would say it would be Hawkins
but I think Corey Seargent is going to give him a battle for that."
Simmons will retain the starting job at free safety going
into spring practice.
"At the safety positions, right now, Travon Simmons will
be the starter in the spring, backed up by either Bobby Fulp or
Dominique Lennon," Smith said. "Domonique Lennon has some academic
concerns. I'm not going to give him a lot of reps unless he's doing
really well in school. Right now, he is. He's got all As and Bs in
school. I'm thinking at free safety it will be Travon, Domonique Lennon
and Bobby Fulp fighting it out.
"At strong safety, I'm just amazed at how Terrell
Richardson played the last three ball games of the year. I'm really
excited about him. He has really good speed. I moved DaShawn Benton from
boundary corner into safety. I think those two will battle that out.
Again, we've got two freshmen who have been here. (Blake) Norwood is at
strong safety and (Drew) Turnage is at free safety. ... Then we've got
Xavier Smith, who's a sophomore.
"We've got bodies. We just need to get them to do right.
... We've just got to get them lined up and knock the fool out of the
guy they line up on, secure their gap and run to the football."
Injuries will keep several players out of spring
"Jeton Beavers, a will linebacker, he'll not go through
spring because of injuries with a shoulder," Smith said. "Brunson will
do some things but no contact. Cody Purdie (defensive back) had surgery
on a knee about a week ago. Those three kids will definitely miss
ECU will open at home against FCS foe Towson on Sept. 5.
Then there's a trip to Florida on Sept. 12. How much value will the bowl
game be against Florida's new coaching staff? First-year Gators head
coach Jim McElwain was hired from Colorado State.
"The main thing we can learn from the game is the guys
who are coming back," Smith said. "You'll know what kind of athletes
they are. We'll study the Colorado State film. The offensive coordinator
(Doug Nussmeier) is from Michigan so we'll look at a Michigan game or
two and see if Michigan was similar to Colorado State. Those two guys (McElwain
and Nussmeier) were together at Alabama with (Nick) Saban so we've
actually started talking about that a little bit."
ECU's defensive staff returns intact. Duane Price coaches
outside linebackers. Associate head coach John Wiley works with inside
linebackers and Pirate alumnus Marc Yellock is the defensive line coach.
"I have just a really good staff," Smith said. "I lean on
them extremely hard. We're working about seven hours a day right now
just trying to get better at what we do. I lean real hard on John. He's
won three (Football Championship Subdivision) national championships (at
Appalachian State) as a coordinator. Duane Price is a very good football
coach. Very knowledgeable. I leaned on him extremely hard last year on
third down calls. We were ranked in the top 15 (13th) in the nation in
third down (stops)."
ECU opponents converted 69 of 202 third downs for 34.2
"Marc Yellock, I rely on him and John for the run," Smith
said. "Of course, pass rush by Marc. I just kind of call what they tell
me to call. I learned a long time ago as defensive coordinator your main
job is to let your coaches coach, come up with a good scheme."