football coach Scottie Montgomery at last month's signing
day press conference (Photo by Al Myatt)
Long night for Pirates
Carolina's youthful midweek
pitching corps was no match for
the meat of the North Carolina
order as an eight-run outburst
in the second inning served as a
launching pad for a 17-4 Tar
Heels win on Tuesday night.
crowd of 5,213, the third
largest ever at Clark-LeClair
Stadium and biggest this season,
saw the Pirates strike first but
the excitement of a possible
third straight win over UNC
didn't last long.
pictures & postgame audio...
Carolina met on the
mound often in a
17-4 home loss to
Tuesday evening as
the Tar Heels. (W.A.
Next: Monmouth at
ECU | Friday, 6:30
Magic in short supply for ECU
East Carolina it was a case of one
and done in the American Athletic
Conference Tournament. In the city
that houses the Magic Kingdom and in
the arena that is the home of the
Orlando Magic there would be nothing
magical about the Pirates ...
Rice rallies to take series
HOUSTON — Rice erased a 1-0 deficit
with four runs in the eighth inning to top
East Carolina 4-1 on Sunday in the deciding
contest of a three-game series. The Pirates
had taken a 1-0 lead in the fourth
Carolina at ECU | Tuesday, 6:30 pm
Rice evens series with East Carolina
HOUSTON — Rice scored four runs in the
bottom of the sixth inning after East
Carolina had come back from a 2-0 deficit to
tie the score and the host Owls took a 7-2
win in the second game of a nonconference
series Saturday afternoon. Rice bounced back
from a 10-1 loss to the No. 16 Pirates in
the series opener on Friday night.
Big inning seals ECU win at Rice
HOUSTON — Eric Tyler led off the
eighth inning with a solo homer to left and
East Carolina added five more runs in the
frame to win 10-1 at Rice on Friday night.
ECU's Evan Krucyznski (2-0) scattered seven
hits in seven innings. Game two of a
three-game set is scheduled for 3 p.m. (ET)
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Just like daylight
savings time, the East Carolina football team is looking to spring
ahead with its first offseason practices under new coach Scottie
Montgomery and his staff.
The Pirates officially
got started in spring ball on Wednesday and will put the culmination
of their efforts on display with the Purple-Gold game at
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on April 16 at 2 p.m.
Montgomery said. "This is what it's all about, being able to get
back out on the grass. You're always happy when you get a chance to
get out and coach a little bit."
Montgomery has something
that a lot of college coaches don't have — NFL experience as a
player and a coach. Having been involved with the game at its
highest level is an advantage the new skipper intends to put to good
"You learn a lot about
the game of football in the National Football League," Montgomery
said. "I would say more than any other place you could be at because
of what you're faced with."
Counting exhibitions and
playoffs Montgomery often experienced over 20 games per NFL season.
"You get a lot of
football," he said. "The amount of knowledge you're able to gain
from an Xs and Os standpoint is second to none."
Montgomery played wide
receiver for the Denver Broncos for three seasons from 2000 to 2002.
He coached wide receivers for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2010 to
The NFL background also
impacts Montgomery's recruiting and his relationships with players.
"Everyone here will tell
you that I love our players but because I love our players I have to
be extremely strict and stern on them," Montgomery said. "We do what
we have to do to make sure that they become the men that they're
supposed to become. We do lean on our National Football League
experience. There's more than me in this building with National
Football League background that can help our players. We try to let
them know we've coached the best players in the world. I've coached
Antonio Brown, Hines Ward and been in offenses with the most
prolific passers at the time, Ben Roethlisberger. I've been on
defenses that were consistently top five defenses in the National
"Those are things we use
from a recruiting standpoint but the biggest recruiting tool we have
is the relationships that we're going to build. We do want to get
them to the National Football League and we want people to come here
that want to go to the National Football League. What they fail to
realize when they come here is we want them to be National Football
League players on the field and off the field. We want them to be
spectacular citizens. Those things combined — the relationship
building, the National Football League experience and the expertise
of our coaches — we use that in recruiting quite a bit."
Just as the NFL takes
account of factors other than playing ability, so do Montgomery and
his staff in bringing recruits aboard the Pirate ship.
"One thing that we did
in the evaluation process of going out and evaluating talent in the
National Football League and the same thing we do here is that there
are certain rounds you take guys in," Montgomery said. "That round
is created from a lot of different deals. Red flags. Ability on the
field. Ability to learn or FBI, as we like to call it, football
intelligence. All of those things combine and why would you want
your character to take you from being a first-round talent all the
way down to a seventh-round talent and affect your family from a
financial standpoint but also affect your pecking order of where you
enter a team?
"I don't think it's any
different in college. I think when we go out in our evaluation
process, we like to start on the transcript. We also like to look at
the back portion of the transcript that has tardies and absences. We
need to have a good understanding of why someone was absent before
we offer them. Of course, the football part of it, they have to be
spectacular players to be able to be here and play football here.
"The National Football
League understands that (players) are a direct investment. Their
background will show sooner or later and hopefully you get guys in
that will continue to grow and mature. Same way here. We're just
four years removed from where they are."
First day out
Spring won't actually
arrive until Sunday but the first day of spring practice on
Wednesday was special for the former Duke player and offensive
coordinator. His coaches need to be in shape to direct an up-tempo
"Just impressed with our
coaching staff," Montgomery said. "Impressed. I pressed them a lot
the last three weeks to get this practice the way it needed to be
and we worked like heck all the time trying to make sure that we're
as efficient as we can be in practice.
"They need to understand
the tempo. They had to be in shape for practice. They need to
understand how we move from drill to drill. Our support staff — our
trainers, our managers, our assistant coaches — they went out and
they had a dominant day. I couldn't say enough about how they went
out and practiced because I am demanding and it's tough to practice
the way that we practice but our players are only going to be as
good as the way we drive practices.
"I was just really,
really impressed with the way that we drove practice (Wednesday)
from a coaching standpoint. And then from a players' standpoint, the
excitement, the energy, the want-to. We're at a point where we've
still got a lot to learn but our guys are in tremendous shape right
now. We've still got a long way to go from a shape standpoint but
Coach (Jeff) Connors has gotten our guys into fantastic shape and
they're ready to go. We had guys finishing at the end of practice.
We sprint. We condition at the end of practice as well.
"It's about getting us
better and getting us ready for the next day but our challenge as a
coaching staff, I told our guys (Thursday) morning — will we be as a
staff better (Friday) than we were (Wednesday)? That's what we have
to continue to do. We have to continue to get better from a staff
standpoint, from a coaching standpoint and our players have to
continue to grasp our concepts better and then make more plays and
understand our defensive scheme and our offensive scheme to the
point of where we can go out and we can execute at the highest
Montgomery said at the
outset of spring practice that inside linebacker Devaris Brunson
(knee), inside linebacker Drayvon Fairley (knee), defensive back
Bobby Fulp (shoulder), wide receiver Isaiah Jones (shoulder),
outside linebacker Dayon Pratt (back) and defensive back Travon
Simmons (shoulder) would be out for the offseason sessions.
Running back Marquez
Grayson and offensive lineman Darius Anderson have been dismissed
for violating team rules.
Injuries are part of the
game and so is establishing discipline.
"That's as big a part of
our business as anything else is injuries," Montgomery said. "How we
deal with injuries right now is next man up. ... When you're off the
field it's much harder to learn because physical reps are much
better than mental reps."
Jones is a proven talent
and so are some others to a degree.
They'll be able to
impact our depth chart (in preseason camp)," Montgomery said. "We're
not holding anything against them at this time of year. A lot of
times they're injured because of the work that they've done during
the year — the blood and the sweat that goes into a football game.
This is an unfortunate part of our business where we do have
surgeries and different injuries that come along."
Absence does make the
heart grow fonder in football, not when coaches are getting to know
players and developing an appreciation for their abilities.
"Right now we're able to
evaluate as coaches," Montgomery said. "We're getting closer to the
guys that are on our field. If they have an ability to be on the
field, they need to be on the field. This is one of those things
where you sit out and you watch for awhile and someone is getting
better no matter what you think. Somebody is getting better and at
the end of spring ball our coaches have built a certain relationship
with certain people. ... We do understand the importance of being
able to get healthy and we respect that as well."
Pair of freshmen on
Two freshmen from the
signing class, announced Feb. 3, enrolled at ECU in January, Cortez
Herrin, an offensive lineman, and Colby Gore, a defensive back.
"They are right in the
middle of our spring drills," Montgomery said. "We are monitoring
them to make sure that they are ready to get out and compete against
22- and 23-year-old men. Knock on wood, Wednesday was their first
day — so far so good. I don't talk a lot about freshmen. I don't
like talking a lot about freshmen. I'm talking about them from a
physical standpoint. I'm not talking about them from a football
standpoint because they haven't earned it. From a physical
standpoint, Coach (Connors) has put them in a position to come out
and at least compete.
"I'll have to answer the
questions about what they can do later because this is a grown man's
sport. If you come into this sport and you're not ready physically,
it will make you look a little different than the rest of the people
The quarterback position
during a 5-7 season in 2015 was handled by Blake Kemp and James
Summers. Kemp transferred and Summers has moved back to receiver,
which is where he was before last year's projected starter, Kurt
Benkert, was lost for the season Aug. 25 with a knee injury.
Benkert is back and is
competing with Minnesota/Rutgers transfer Philip Nelson for snaps.
Former coach Ruffin McNeill used to talk about the unity among
Pirate quarterbacks and that apparently has not changed.
"It's amazing because
I've never seen two guys or a complete room of guys compete the way
they're competing yet still helping one another," Montgomery said.
"This is new for me. Because they're such good quarterbacks, we're
going to be in good hands no matter what. The other part of it is
with a National Football League background and watching quarterbacks
compete or for different positions, it's usually 'You do what you
do, I'm going to do what I do' and whoever is the quarterback in the
end, that's what it's going to be.
"You're not getting any
help from me. Don't ask me a question about this or that but these
guys are all in it together. I truly believe they're friends and
they're working really hard to become the starting quarterback. I'm
looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds. It's one of those
situations where we do have to evaluate it daily. It's a constant
daily evaluation. What they've heard from me is, 'I want to see
consistent football.' I want to see guys taking care of the football
— but you have to make the big plays when big plays present
themselves. You have to be consistent in doing it. If we have a
person in there that's going to waste plays, that won't be the
person that's in there when we hit Dowdy-Ficklen."
Benkert and Nelson are
the most likely suspects for the starting job but Montgomery left
the door open.
"(Benkert and Nelson)
would be the main characters in the movie, but we haven't sent it to
Hollywood by any means," Montgomery said. "We're having auditions.
As the audition process happens, sometimes there's a guy that no one
knows about that comes in and could potentially steal the leading
role (John Jacobs?). What I would say right now is we are in the
audition mode. Those are the guys that came highly recommended. They
have put in a lot of time this offseason. They're two polished
quarterbacks at this point in time but they've still got a lot to
learn and they have to continue to grow the relationship with Coach
(Tony) Petersen (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach)."
Running backs have
numbers as well
There is personnel to
sort through at running back as well.
"I've been very
fortunate the last two places I've been (Duke and the Steelers) to
be blessed with not good backs but great backs," Montgomery said.
"Right here we're at the same place. We've got guys here that look
the part. We haven't put pads on and I am reluctant to say how a
back carries the ball until I see him tackled.
"We do have numbers and
we look the part. Our guys have worked really hard this offseason. I
love the way we look. We're lean. We're also physically strong. We
look like we know how to carry the football at this point in time
but we have not been tackled. We've been tagged off. I'm probably a
pretty decent running back if we're just tagging off. ... The proof
is in the pudding. I want to see these guys get tackled. Then we'll
start to comment on how that pecking order will work out."
had five rushes for 32 yards in the NFL — and never fumbled. He also
made eight tackles in the league and returned 15 kickoffs for 370
yards. When he's listed as a receiver who caught 16 passes for 160
yards with one score, it's not really doing his versatility justice.
Search for corners
The Pirates lost
starting cornerbacks Josh Hawkins and Rocco Scarfone from the 2015
team that went 3-5 in the American Athletic Conference.
"That's a big emphasis
going in," Montgomery said. "I thought Wednesday our corners had a
great start and I told them that. I don't give sugar out very much.
There's a couple of guys I thought really had great days of practice
at the corner position.
"I didn't tell them who
they were. I just kind of collectively told them as a group. I
thought certain ones performed at a level that will be conducive to
us winning a lot of football games. I'm going to continue to
challenge them. They're going to be challenged every day with speed
and athleticism on the other side of the football. We have to
continue to develop that position. We knew that. We're happy with
where some people are. They're going to continue to get better and
better. We've got to catch the ones they throw to us, too. That's
the biggest deal. That's the level of confidence that you have when
you know what you're doing."
Rick Smith was defensive
coordinator and secondary coach for the Pirates the last three
"Coach Smith is coaching
them, just coaching the corners and the secondary," Montgomery said.
"I think that's going to make all the difference in the world.
Watching his individual drills (Wednesday) — the energy and the
passion and the detail in which he's coached them and the way
they're listening and the way the leader in the group right now is
trying to lead. He's not trying to be someone he's not. All we ask
him to do is be their best self. That's what we're all concentrating
on right now. So the corner position, we think is going to get
better quickly. We feel we have the necessary pieces for it to grow
into a really solid position."
While the players adjust
to a new staff and schemes, Montgomery is making the transition from
offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and associate head coach at
Duke to head coach at East Carolina.
Sometimes, he concedes,
it's lonely at the top.
"It's harder in the
building than it is outside the building because I don't have a
(position) room," he said. "The entire building is my room. I miss
the relationship that I had with the quarterbacks. Sitting in that
quarterback room — that's a different type of room. I also miss
being able to lead the offensive meetings. You miss that when you're
in the building. When I'm on the field. Coach Cut (Duke coach David
Cutcliffe), we ran practice in kind of different ways. I had to be
all over the field, coaching each position. I was coaching my
quarterbacks but just coaching each position on the field.
"That adjustment is
something I was probably a little bit more prepared for than the
in-the-building adjustment. There's a certain level of loneliness
that comes when the coaches are all meeting with their groups across
the building. I'm in here watching (tape of) practice or putting
together the script for the next phase of practice and doing my head
coaching duties. That's tough. Every now and then I get to sneak in
the defensive meeting rooms and offensive meeting rooms.
"But it is different to
be the one leading the offensive charge and coordinating and every
day having everybody work so tightly together. Right now my mode I
would say is evaluating everything. I'm just in a complete
evaluation mode from practice, practice schedule, practice planning,
coaches, players, managers, trainers. I'm just in complete
evaluation mode right now."
Recruiting to ECU as
compared to Duke
East Carolina's identity
is that of a regional university.
There are similarities
to recruiting at Duke and ECU. There are differences, too.
"Recruiting starts with
relationships," Montgomery said. "I didn't bring a single person in
here who wasn't willing to be on the phone at 10:30, 11 o'clock,
11:30 at night trying to get it done. OK? It's about the
relationships that you build. First and foremost, a lot of people
talk about the schools and different things. We're all preaching the
best points of our schools but we also have to do a good job of
selling what type of people we are and how that directly correlates
and affects the lives of the humans that we're bringing on to our
campus. That's the first thing.
"As far as the
recruiting here versus there, I'll say this — in the East where
we're spending a lot of time recruiting, we started our recruiting
really hard here in the East for '17, for '18, for '19. We are the
school at the East. It feels really good. We have great
relationships here. Our coaches have worked really hard building
these relationships quickly with our high school coaches. It's been
great. The difference is Duke would probably be more of a national
recruiter because of certain guidelines that they have. We have a
footprint. That footprint, our coaches know, is very important to
continue to build those relationships where at Duke we had to be
good every single time out. We had to go out and build a new
relationship. Here, we're cultivating relationships. We're trying to
make them stronger and stronger and stronger. We like to get in our
car and drive 30 or 40 miles or an hour and 15 minutes or an hour
and a half here. Certain other places that you hear about, that's
hard to do because of some of the guidelines that they have.
"We want to take our
guys here. We want to play well here. We like our footprint."
Scrimmages prior to
the spring game closed
Scrimmages on April 2
and April 9 will be closed to the public.
"Yeah, they will be,"
Montgomery said. "We're not opening right now. We want our coaches
to coach and we want them to coach freely. People will get to see
the product. Also, no one really knows what we're doing as a
first-year staff. That's talking about the people on the outside.
There's a certain level that we can continue to conceal and people
not knowing what we're doing. They think they know but they don't
know. Until we get to the spring game (April 16) and I can
completely control what we do in that spring game, that's when we'll
let people in.
"It's a strategic move,
but also it gives our kids a chance to learn what we're trying to do
and our coaches a chance to coach as hard as they want to coach
without worrying about what's being seen, what's being talked about.
We feel really comfortable with doing it that way."
Taking over from
essentially brought a new staff with new schemes to the program.
He's putting his
fingerprints on the footprint that is ECU.
"We don't know what they
did," Montgomery said. "That's the one thing I said. We weren't
going to talk about the previous staff with our coaches or our
players or any of that. No matter what, we're going back to the
foundation. ... I talked to our coaches this morning. There have
been some good football coaches around here. Please believe that.
Really good football coaches.
"That's not our job to
critique. ... It's our job to go down to the foundation and make
sure the foundation is settled and not look around. We're just going
to build from the foundation and build up because our way is
definitely going to be different than anyone else's way.
"We will say this. We're
very appreciative of the work that they've done. Our guys are
football people. They have great football intelligence and we're
building on that. Our guys understand that."