special teams and running backs coach Kirk
Doll. (Archive photo by W.A. Myatt)
Pirates edge UCF in OT
HARTFORD, CT — East Carolina survived and
advanced in the first game of the 2015
American Athletic Conference tournament with
an 81-80 overtime win over Central Florida
at the XL Center on Thursday afternoon. The
Pirates (14-18) used a balanced scoring
attack that included 19 points from freshman
B.J. Tyson and a career high 18 from
Marshall Guilmette, 13 each from Michel
Nzege and Caleb White and 11 from Paris
Next: AAC Tournament
| ECU vs. UCF
Friday, 12 pm |
Slam sends Campbell by ECU
— Cole Hallum's grand slam
in a six-run sixth inning
helped Campbell to a 9-4 win
over East Carolina at Clark-LeClair
Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Camels (14-2) won their
11th straight game and
halted a four-game winning
streak for ECU (9-6).
to a 3-1
Yorgen makes a play
on a ground ball in
a 9-4 midweek loss
to Campbell. (Photo
by W.A. Myatt)
Audio: The Brian
Brian Bailey Show
airs on Pirate Radio
1250 on Mondays at
6:30 p.m. Brian's
guests this week
Todd Gibson of WNCN
(left) and Jeff
Gravley of WRAL
Long-term recruiting effort
connection with East
Carolina that didn't
originally pay off for the
Pirates helped produce an
important late addition to
the football recruiting
Class of 2015. Junior
college defensive tackle
Darius Commissiong became
the 19th member of the ECU
Class of '15 ...
More from Sammy Batten...
Pirates finish sweep
GREENVILLE — East
Carolina scored two runs in
the seventh inning for a 3-2
win over Monmouth on Sunday,
completing a three-game
series sweep of the Hawks.
Reid Love singled to lead
off ECU's half of the
seventh. An error by the
Monmouth first baseman on a
sacrifice bunt by Parker
Lamm put runners at first
and second. A sacrifice bunt
by Eric Tyler moved both
runners into scoring
position. Bryce Harman's
sacrifice fly tied the score
at 2 and an RBI single up
the middle by Travis Watkins
scored Lamm ...
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East Carolina special teams coordinator and football
alumnus Kirk Doll has been making plans in addition to preparing for
spring practice, which starts a week from today.
"I've been in New Orleans," said Doll, who also coaches
running backs for the Pirates. "My (younger) daughter (Kelsey) is
getting married there at the end of May. We've been doing wedding plans.
... We had all kinds of things going on. We had engagement parties,
shopping for dresses and tuxes. We did get a chance to eat some craw
Doll is never more than a play away from possibly having
to put one of his many special team units on the field.
"It's always first down on special teams," as coach
Ruffin McNeill has said. "They have one down to get it right."
Doll has evaluated the various elements of special team
performance in 2014 with the intent of being better next season.
The Pirates made 14 of 24 field goal attempts last season
and 58 of 59 conversion kicks. The longest made field goal for senior
Warren Harvey, who became the program's leading career scorer last
season, was 40 yards.
"There was a lot of positive things done in
placekicking," Doll said. " ... There's a lot more than just the kicker.
For people who don't actually go out there and try to do placekicking,
it's kind of like a golf swing. You've got the ball on the tee and for
some reason that tee moves about an inch, it changes the result of your
"Not making excuses, but there were times we had a new
short snapper (Colton Oliver), who I thought got better. We had a new
holder. Trent Tignor was the holder for, gosh, four years. So Worth
Gregory (punter) stepped in and there's a learning process there as
well. I think all of the consistency got better as you get into the
latter part of the year."
"This year. coming up, now we've got somebody that's
experienced in snapping and holding it. Now, we've got a new
placekicker. We've got some different plans of attack there. We're
looking forward to seeing a couple of the young men perform this
Oliver was a true freshman in 2014.
"I'm looking forward to seeing C.J. Struyk back," Doll
said. "C.J. did some snapping for us two years ago and then he had some
shoulder issues. which kind of limited him to not being as effective.
C.J. is back and ... so we're looking forward to seeing him compete with
Colton for the short snapping and the long snapping (punt) position."
Punter Worth Gregory transferred from Alabama after a
year as a redshirt with the Crimson Tide. He averaged 43.6 yards per
punt during an 8-5 season for ECU that included a 5-3 record in the
American Athletic Conference.
"Worth had some excellent games," Doll said. "This was
his first year punting since his senior year in high school, so that's
two years. There are some little things that we're going to be working
on throughout the spring and summer to kind of refine his skills so it's
a more consistent drop and our operation time is shorter. It wasn't in a
critical area but it can get better. When Worth gets some of these
things corrected, I feel really good about the success he'll have for
ECU had a punt blocked at Tulsa for a Golden Hurricane
score that gave the hosts a 14-7 lead with 8:51 left in the first
quarter. The Pirates
came back for a 49-32 win.
"When you look at the film, it's just a matter of
executing," Doll said. "It wasn't a scheme deal or anything like that.
It's just a matter of performance. I've got to do a better job of making
sure they understand what their job description is. It was basically the
Kickoffs are an area where consistency can improve. The
number of players with experience on that unit create the potential for
"That was one of the things you never knew what the heck
was going to happen," Doll said of kickoff coverage. "What I mean by
that — Warren (Harvey) was somewhere around 30 percent where there was
not a return. I want to say he was in the mid-30s (percent) on
nonreturnable balls. We had some excellent coverage but we were
inconsistent. There was always one here and one there that was
frustrating. One of the things that I look forward to in the spring is
we've got so many young guys coming back. Some of them, it was their
first time playing in a college game. I want to say the number was
twenty-ish on special teams for our first-year players.
"You see the effort. I don't think there was ever a lack
of effort. The execution part of the assignment was somewhat different.
At times it was excellent and sometimes not. That's what gets me excited
about 2015 is all the guys coming back."
Punt coverage is in similar shape — a need for
improvement and sufficient experience for better performance.
"Our net put was 36.6 (yards)," Doll said. "Obviously, we
want to make that better. The gross was 43.6. That's a seven-yard return
average. ... Our philosophy is win the field position change for that
particular game. ... We faced some great punt returners last year. ...
There were probably four returners that were very scary so to speak.
Those particular games we had some good things happen for us in our
coverage. Some times we didn't have to punt.
"As we go back into this, you're always looking to refine
things and do better. Again, with our young guys coming back, looking at
the stats and who made the most tackles and all that — they're all young
guys. That's only going to make it better."
The kickoff return dimension decreased with an injury to
Trevon Brown before the Pirates embarked on AAC play.
"That's one of the things that we didn't do very well
this year," Doll said. "The kickoff return and the punt return, I was
really disappointed in. Losing Trevon Brown kind of hurt us. When he was
in there, things kind of picked up a little bit. Having him back excites
me. Quay Johnson coming back excites me. We're working on some new ideas
and how to teach things, how to better execute. There's talent there in
the return game. When you've got Trevon coming back and Quay Johnson and
Isaiah Jones. We've got some newcomers. Obviously, Davon Grayson is
coming back and Jacen Murphy, I think he's about healed. He was really a
good returner in high school. We have others and they're all going to
get opportunities. With the freshmen coming in, they'll be some new
faces that will get looks, too.
"I am really sincerely excited about the return game for
next year. We're going to kind of spice things up a little bit so to
Some of the same players will be involved with the punt
"Those same guys I mentioned and Jimmy Williams along
with that," Doll said in regard to the punt return aspect. "We're going
to be working very hard on giving them looks that make it realistic for
them to make good decisions because there are some balls that you can't
return. We're definitely going to give them a good hard look this
The top candidates to replace Harvey are Texas A&M
transfer Davis Plowman and Connor Torruella.
"Connor, my first year here, he was the back-up to
Warren," Doll said. "Then he had knee surgery. So he was not around in
2013. He came back this past year. He's very competitive and will be
competing with Davis as one of the guys. We have another young man, Alex
Mattes, who will have an opportunity.
"We're also going to have a tryout, the first day of
spring. We've got a half dozen or so guys who we're going to take a look
at. We're going to have two young men in the fall who were in our summer
football camp last year who had very successful high school careers.
They're going to be with us in the fall. We have two exciting high
school prospects coming in."
Although Harvey generally did the placekicking as well as
kickoffs, there is a possibility that those duties will be split up
"In the NFL, it used to be you'd have the same guy doing
it," Doll said. "Now, a lot of them are using another spot just to have
a guy kick off out of the end zone all the time. A lot of time on
kickoff return, they give you just the average. What's important is
starting field position. If you kick it out every time and it's always
on the 25, you need to look at the teams that are returning it and are
they getting it past the 25? Field position, we always talk about
getting the ball past the 30 as being a big plus for your offensive unit
because that changes your chances of scoring. The closer you get to the
goal line, the percentages keep changing.
"That's one of the things that always gets me, looking at
somebody's average. If I wanted to win the kickoff coverage average, I
could squib kick it every time. They'd have like eight yards in return
or 10 maybe. The bottom line is where did you start with the football.
... Some of the kickers that we will have available to us, some of their
productivity might be higher in field goals and others might be in
Doll will be working with new offensive coordinator Dave
Nichol in terms of his responsibilities as running backs coach. That
unit lost record-setting quarterback Shane Carden as well as premier
receivers Justin Hardy and Cam Worthy.
"I think it's going to go right on churning," Doll said.
"Our offensive line is well-experienced and that's important simply
because you've got some quarterbacks with a lot of talent but there's
not a lot of game experience. It's important for the offensive line to
take charge of their deal and kind of get us through some times where
we're developing experience. I think there's going to be a lot of
productivity on offense."
The running game also has the potential to take some
pressure off the Pirates' young passers.
"It's going to be very important for us to be able to do
both," Doll said. "I don't think any time you put all of your eggs in
one basket it's good. I think if you can have an opportunity to be
successful running and throwing, you're going to have a better football
team. We've got what I think are two experienced and just great team
players in Chris Hairston and Cory Hunter. Then you've got the
youngsters with Anthony Scott and Marquez Grayson. We've got a couple of
other guys coming in. We'll wait and see how all that turns out and
Running back Chris Mangus transferred from Virginia Tech
and spent 2014 on the ECU scout team.
"Chris was over against the defense quite a bit," Doll
said. "We had a little bit of a look at him on Thursday night football.
He did some good things running the football. Watching him in the
special teams drills, I'm pretty excited about his production."
Doll will be enshrined in the Wichita (KA) sports hall of
fame next month. His mother, Dorothy, still lives in his home town. Doll
said he will be picking the Wichita State Shockers to make a run in the
upcoming NCAA Tournament.
"She's a big fan," Doll said. "She's 91 now. She's always an avid
fan of Wichita State and also of Kansas because of her life being
mostly there. She had her T-shirt on during the (conference)
tournament last week."
Wichita State made the Final Four in 1965 and 2013.
"She's always excited," Doll said. "That guy's (coach Gregg
Marshall) done as great job there. I know that."
began his coaching career at Wichita State as a student assistant in
1975. He has worked at Iowa State, Tulsa, Texas A&M, Notre Dame, for
2003 BCS champion LSU and the Denver Broncos during his career.
Mom has been right there in Wichita during his coaching odyssey.
Will she be able to go to the wedding in New Orleans?
"We're working on that," said Doll, who returned to ECU in 2012.
"She said if I get a private jet that she'd be ready. I've got to
get her psyched up to get through that airport once or twice."
Special teams play was generally adequate to good last
season but that's not good enough for Doll, a defensive lineman at ECU
in 1971 and 1972.
"I wasn't happy about the final results overall," Doll
said. "There's so much more we can do to help our team. The nucleus that
we have coming back will perform and help our team more next year. I
think it will be important that we do."
The running backs create a sense of optimism that the
Pirates can continue scoring at the pace to which ECU fans have grown
accustomed, 35.8 points per game last season. The ball carriers and
experience on the offensive line offer the potential for a balanced
"With the running backs, I'm excited," Doll said.
"Obviously, with more competition, the better you get out of everybody.
I think that's going to happen in the running back position. As
everybody has seen the last few years, we've been playing a lot of
running backs. There might be one who gets a few more carries. I'm
excited about some of the stuff that those young guys did and some that
the other guys did. We'll keep working and we're going to make that a
very productive unit for East Carolina."