View from the East
Friday, March 20, 2015

By Al Myatt

Al Myatt

Ruff hip to spring ball

ECU football coach Ruffin McNeill, pictured firing up the Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium crowd before the Pirates took on North Carolina last September, is currently striving to get back in animated form as he rehabs from offseason hip replacement surgery. (Photo by W.A. Myatt)


In-depth with head coach Ruffin McNeill

In-depth with offensive coordinator Dave Nichol

In-depth with defensive coordinator Rick Smith

In-depth with RBs/special teams coach Kirk Doll




Lowery, Pirates stay hot

GREENVILLE — East Carolina built a 7-0 lead through four innings on Wednesday evening against Princeton and completed a two-game sweep of the Tigers with an 8-3 win at Clark-LeClair Stadium. It was the sixth straight win for the Pirates (15-6). Luke Lowery, the current national Player of the Week, went 4-for-5 with an RBI as ECU totaled 16 hits. ... More...

Next: ECU vs. VCU | Friday, 6:30 pm



Macy & Company aim high in WNIT

For the third consecutive postseason, East Carolina will play in the women’s version of the National Invitational Tournament. The WNIT features a 64-team field, and Pirate coach Heather Macy thinks she has a team that can win it all. ... More from Brian Bailey...

Audio: The Brian Bailey Show
The Brian Bailey Show airs on Pirate Radio 1250 on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. Brian's guest this week was former ECU basketball coach Mike Steele (right): Replay show...


ECU continues winning streak

GREENVILLE — East Carolina took its fifth straight win by beating Princeton 11-2 at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Tuesday evening. The Pirates (14-6) have scored 60 runs during the streak.

Winning pitcher Jimmy Boyd's support included two hits each from Reid Love, Luke Lowery, Eric Tyler and Kirk Morgan. Travis Watkins had one hit and three RBIs. ... Story & pictures...

Post-game: Godwin, Lowery, Boyd...

Pictured: ECU senior co-captain Hunter Allen turns a 6-3 double play against Princeton Tuesday night. (Photo by W.A. Myatt)


ECU blasts Phoenix

ELON — East Carolina completed a sweep of its three-game series at Elon by pounding out 22 hits in a 20-4 win on Sunday. The Pirates (13-6) led 8-0 before erupting for seven runs in the sixth inning. ECU added five more runs in the seventh before the Phoenix (8-9) closed the scoring with two runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth. ... More...



Pirates rally to clinch series

ELON — East Carolina was down to its last out and trailed 8-7 at Elon on Saturday afternoon before rallying for four runs in the top of the ninth and an 11-8 win. With two down and nobody on in the ninth, Pirates pinch hitter Luke Bolka reached base on an error and the comeback unfolded from there. ... More...



No. 20 SMU survives Pirates

HARTFORD, CT — Top-seeded Southern Methodist withstood a challenge from eighth-seeded East Carolina for a 74-68 quarterfinal win in the American Athletic Conference tournament Friday afternoon at the XL Center. The Pirates (14-18) attacked from beyond the arc ... More...

| ECU's Season | Tournament Bracket |


By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.


East Carolina football coach Ruffin McNeill has been recovering from hip replacement surgery in February as spring practice is scheduled to get started today.

"Dr. Chris Hasty did a great job," McNeill said of the procedure on his left hip.

The Pirates coach had his right hip done before undergoing weight loss surgery after his first season as ECU head coach in 2010. Former Pirate quarterback Mike Weaver was on hand. Weaver's company provided the synthetic insert that has helped ease the pain McNeill was experiencing.

Weaver's final season as an option operative in Pat Dye's wishbone attack was 1976, the year McNeill arrived from Lumberton as a defensive back at ECU.

"Erlene (McNeill's wife) has done a great job of being my nurse and Ann (Hoggard, secretary) here at work," McNeill said. "It's going well. I'm trying to make sure I'm smart and don't overdo things. I'm anxious to get back to work but at the same time I've got to be smart and manage things."

After several years of walking daily to maintain his health, McNeill's regimen had to be adjusted due to discomfort in the left hip last season.

"It's changed for the better," McNeill said. "There's no pain now. I was ready to get it. It was a bigger deal than I thought it was. Erlene let me know, 'Hey, look, that was a major operation. You've got to take your time.' It wasn't like a ho-hum thing, go in and get it done. It was a major deal."

McNeill has been seeing Kevin Youngs of Greenville for therapy. Youngs has been assisting ECU athletes in rehab since 2007.

"That's the process now," McNeill said. "That's the next part."

Apart from his personal situation, the Pirates start their offseason workouts today and that gets McNeill's motor running.

"It's a new chapter," said the ECU alumnus. "This team has a chance to develop its own personality from every position. ... We've had staff changes and that's been great."

Brad Davis, who was a player on a BCS champion at Oklahoma, comes from James Madison to coach the offensive line.

"Big time hire," McNeill said. "He's a big time football coach. He understands our offense, understands the run game. He's a great teacher, better person. Great coach, better man."

Dave Nichol, the new offensive coordinator, and Garrett Riley, promoted to outside receivers coach, are in new roles.

"No hesitation, none," McNeill said of the internal staff decisions following Lincoln Riley's departure as offensive coordinator to Oklahoma after the Pirates went 8-5 overall in 2014 and 5-3 in their first season in the American Athletic Conference. "I've known Garrett since he was 15. Garrett was one of the best quarterbacks in the state of Texas when I first knew him. ... Dave Nichol was in the offense at Texas Tech. Lincoln will tell you, he helped Lincoln understand the offense. Both moves were instant. I'm very confident in those two guys."

Who will follow Shane Carden at quarterback is a situation that will command significant interest. Also gone are big time receivers Justin Hardy and Cam Worthy.

"Competition is welcomed at every position," McNeill said. "Quarterback is always the mainstay but there are some other positions where they better be on their horses. Really, every position because we've got guys who have been waiting, ready to step up and challenge. ... We want to continue to build competitive depth at each position and get some guys back healthy — Ike Harris (offensive lineman), Tre Robertson (offensive lineman) ... We get Terrell Stanley (defensive lineman) back and I'm excited about him being a leader up front. ... He and I can identify with the healing process. Devaris Brunson (linebacker), those guys, too."

Stanley missed 2014 with injuries sustained in an automobile accident resulting from a skid on ice. Brunson had surgery after a knee injury last year at South Carolina.

Kurt Benkert was Carden's backup last season. Junior college transfer Blake Kemp spent a redshirt year with the scout team. Cody Keith, Carden's backup in 2013, missed last season after surgery.

"We will hold Cody Keith out," McNeill said. "It's a year-long recovery so we're going to hold him out of practice and monitor his progress."

ECU's spring game is April 18.

"We'll expand our schemes a little bit," McNeill said. "It's exciting to get on the field with the kids and I'm looking forward to it."

Ruff likes Wildcats

McNeill didn't hesitate when asked who would win the NCAA Tournament, which started this week.

"Kentucky," he said.

McNeill began his coaching career with the basketball program at Lumberton High School.

"(Coach John) Calipari has them playing well," he said. "They have a different focus. They don't have a cockiness. They play great team ball and they play great defense. They rebound. They sacrifice. They don't care who scores the points. They play great team defense and individual defense. They crash the boards and they get coached.

"Calipari can chew their butts out and that's a point. To be that good and he can gash 'em, take 'em out of the game. Kentucky, 40-0."

ECU hoops improved

We'll be writing in greater depth in next week's column and in the upcoming issue of The Pirates' Chest magazine about ECU basketball.

Suffice it to say for now that Pirates coach Jeff Lebo felt the 2014-15 team that went 14-19 overall was better than the preceding edition which finished 17-17.

The transition to the AAC from Conference USA was a significant change.

"The biggest difference in our move to this league was the quality, the size and athleticism of the big positions, the four and the five," Lebo said. "Our players at those positions had the biggest hurdles to overcome. We didn't see the quality of those players at those positions on a consistent basis in Conference USA."

Dramatic win on diamond

ECU trailed host Elon 8-7 with two out in the top of the ninth inning on Saturday with nobody on base.

Pinch hitter Luke Bolka reached on an error on a hard-hit ball to third to get a comeback started that produced four runs for an 11-8 win.

Hunter Allen and Garrett Brooks had hits to put the Pirates ahead. Bryce Harman connected for a two-run double.

"It was a great game to be a part of," said Luke Lowery, named the national Player of the Week by Collegiate Baseball and "A lot of credit to Coach (Cliff) Godwin for never letting us give up. He came into the dugout before and said, 'We're going to win this game.' We made him a prophet."

Built-in scouting report

The Pirates (15-6) start a three-game set with visiting Virginia Commonwealth (9-9) at 6:30 this evening.

Coach Godwin will have a ready supply of information on the Rams from assistant coach Jeff Palumbo, who was on the VCU staff from 2012 to 2014.

"He's recruited 90 percent of the players on their team, ... so we'll have a good scouting report on VCU," Godwin said.

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03/20/2015 03:57 AM