View from the East
Friday, April 15, 2016

By Al Myatt

Al Myatt

Pirates go on public display

ECU football coach Scottie Montgomery

(File photo by Al Myatt)



Frequent flyers

The ECU baseball team left early Thursday morning for an AAC series that starts at Memphis at 7:30 tonight. Last weekend, the Pirates jetted off to New Orleans for a series with Tulane. ... More from Al Myatt...



ECU game at UNCW called off

East Carolina's non-conference baseball game at UNC-Wilmington, scheduled for Tuesday night, was cancelled due to wet conditions without a makeup date. ... More...

Next: ECU at Memphis
Friday, 7:30 pm | Saturday, 3 pm | Sunday, 1 pm



Pirates prevent sweep with 7-3 win

NEW ORLEANS Parker Lamm had a two-run single as East Carolina scored five times in the sixth inning of a 7-3 win Sunday that kept Tulane from sweeping a three-game series. Lamm went 4-for-5 with three RBIs as ECU improved to 21-11 overall and 3-3 in the American Athletic Conference. ... More...


Tulane takes series with 3-0 win

NEW ORLEANS Tulane's 3-0 American Athletic Conference win over East Carolina on Saturday had some similarities to the Green Wave's 5-3 win over the Pirates on Friday night. ... More...


Tulane walks off on three-run homer

NEW ORLEANS An outstanding pitching effort by East Carolina junior left-hander Evan Kruczynski went unrewarded as Tulane rallied for a 5-2 American Athletic Conference win Friday night. The Green Wave scored five runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, ending the game with a three-run homer by Hunter Williams. ... More...



Nova executed ECU script

Al MyattVillanova's 77-74 win over North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament final in Houston on Monday night bore a strong resemblance to East Carolina's 77-74 win at Weber State three years and two days beforehand in the title game of the CIT ... More from Al Myatt...



Pirates win wild one in 11th

ELON East Carolina scored two runs on a pair of wild pitches in the top of the 11th inning for a 7-5 win at Elon on Tuesday night. Travis Watkins, Eric Tyler and Bryce Harman all walked with one out in the final frame to load the bases ... More...



Pirates face eight-game road stretch

Chalk up another series win for East Carolina as the Pirates took two out of three from American Athletic Conference preseason favorite Houston. In a battle of nationally-ranked teams the Pirates took the first two games of the series before falling on Sunday. ... 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 guests this week were ECU baseball coach Cliff Godwin (left) and WNCN sports anchor Todd Gibson (right): Replay show...


Pirates shore up backcourt

Three-star shooting guard Raquan Wilkins of state champion Atlanta (GA) Westlake High School entertained offers from a number of schools before choosing to join ECU coach Jeff Lebo's recruiting class of 2016-17. ... Thumbnail sketches...

Thumbnails: Class of 2016-17


By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.


Pirate Nation will get its most meaningful look to date at the football program since the coaching transition that followed the 2015 season when East Carolina holds its Purple-Gold scrimmage at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday at 2 p.m.

ECU coach Scottie Montgomery has been working diligently establishing the foundation for a new era.

He and staff have been able to get a handle on personnel and how players will fit into new schemes during spring practice. The offseason sessions have reinforced what the coaches believed to be the case in terms of talent.

"What we've been able to accomplish is that we know we have some playmakers," Montgomery said. "Going in, we thought we had some. We know that our team is in a lot better shape than when we started. We're healthy for the most part. We didn't have any major situations to happen to us. We knew that we were going to have to come out and operate at a high level in the spring and we've done that."

Quarterbacks competing

Kurt Benkert won the starting job at quarterback prior to last season but was lost for the year to a knee injury in August. He has been competing with Minnesota/Rutgers transfer Philip Nelson this spring. The numbers the duo have generated in closed scrimmages indicate a tightly-contested battle.

"No question, they are competing," Montgomery said. "I told someone the other day it's like pitching horseshoes with your uncle. You hit one and you ring it and you turn around to celebrate and then you hear him going on top of you. That's kind of the way they play. They've played really well, competing against each other. The other thing is that if one has a bad play, the other one will back it up with a bad play. Hopefully, this weekend we're going to give them a chance to compete on a bigger scale and show who they are.

"One will be on the Royal Purple team and the other will be on the Old Gold team. It will be a defense vs. offense scrimmage but they will have a chance to compete."

Scrimmage format

Montgomery talked about how the scrimmage Saturday will be structured.

"The format is pretty simple," he said. "We'll put the ball down at the minus-25-(yard line) and we'll let it play. We'll punt but we won't punt with a punt return team. We'll simply have a punt returner back there as we catch it. That's where we'll play it or as it comes to roll, that's where we'll play it. We'll have the ability to kick field goals and field goal block but we won't have a kickoff and kickoff return.

"It'll be purely offense against defense. One offense against one defense and two offense against two defense. The quarterbacks will rotate between ones and twos."

Saturday goals

Montgomery talked about first impressions that will be generated from Bagwell Field.

"We want to be clean," said the former Duke and Denver player. "We don't want a lot of penalties, of course. That's the main thing. We want to go out and play a clean football game. We're going to restrict a lot of stuff that we've done over the last three or four days where we've had some good packages going in for several players, but we also want to see some guys making some plays that they've been making see if we can do it in front of everybody.

"One practice I saw more plays being made on offense and defense than I've seen in a long time that were spectacular plays. They need to bring that from the practice field, from Hight Field to Dowdy-Ficklen and we need to all see it happen. That's what I want to see. I want to see our guys respond to the big situation in the big stadium."

Adjustments for offensive line

The Pirates recently signed Branden Pena of Hartnell College in California amid concerns about depth on the offensive front. That unit will be relatively thin in terms of numbers for the Purple-Gold matchup.

"We knew coming in we already had a few injuries at that position," Montgomery said. "That's why the spring game is not going to be a normal spring game kind of a format. We're potentially dealing with 10 (offensive linemen) and then potentially, nine, which makes it really, really hard for you to practice, of course, or play as much as we would like to play. We don't think that the injuries we've been hit with are serious or severe so we feel good about it. We would just like to have been able to get all that work with those guys that have missed a little bit of time.

"Messiah Rice (6-feet, 5-inch, 298-pound rising sophomore) had really taken off in practice at our left tackle position. Then he had an injury. We're really looking forward to getting those guys back. Our offensive line is a major concern. We've got to get better at that position to match some of our skill on offense and defense. We knew that we had to grow and we think that we have done that but we still have a long way to go."

Signing Pena doesn't mean Montgomery is getting away from his intentions of developing players. Position competition is one means of getting the best out of personnel.

"We try to do a lot of things, whether it be through recruiting last year or the junior college kind of way of doing things," he said. "There are certain parameters I won't let our coaches get outside of if we're going to go to junior colleges as a fix 'em for a few things from a depth standpoint. We're really excited about a lot of the people that we have coming in. They know that they're going to be competing and our guys here know that the guys coming in are going to try to take their job. The level of competition right now is a great deal. Everybody is a little on edge and that's the way all of us should be right now."

Running back outlook

Senior running back Chris Hairston got the most carries in the ECU offense during a 5-7 season in 2015. The Pirates were 3-5 in the American Athletic Conference.

"Anthony Scott has probably been our most consistent guy at this point in time," Montgomery said. "He's probably made the most plays. Derrell (Scott, Tennessee transfer from Havelock) has also made some plays for us in scrimmage situations. Devin Anderson has made some plays for us but we also have played James Summers over there at running back a little bit and tight end a little bit and receiver a little bit. ... "

Summers played quarterback last season after Benkert went out, sharing time with Blake Kemp, who has left the program.

"At the running back position, we feel pretty solid," Montgomery said. "We feel that what one guy lacks, the other guy has so we're looking forward to seeing if that position is as good as we think that it can be. Their role is a lot different than a lot of the other skill positions because they also have to perform from a protection standpoint, and in protection it's most critical that we protect these quarterbacks. We feel like we've got two really good quarterbacks and from a back standpoint they're going to have to protect at a high level."

Secondary showing promise

Montgomery has seen some good things from the defensive backfield during spring. Rick Smith is focusing exclusively on that unit after also serving as defensive coordinator on the previous staff.

"We're catching the ball better," Montgomery said. "I told Coach Smith, just leaving practice (Wednesday), if we can catch it like that we're not going to have to worry about too many things. If that ball has been near them, they have caught it. From a defensive back standpoint, that's unusual. You'll get a lot more pass breakups.

"Our quarterbacks are being really accurate and it's been a battle for the football with our receivers and DBs. It's been some great battles but if you make a mistake with the ball our defensive backs, whether it's the corners or the safeties, they've caught the ball at a high level this spring.

"I've been really impressed with Corey Seargent and (DaShaun) Amos, they've been great on the edges and they provide a little bit of leadership that I thought we were definitely going to need at that position. We've got to continue to work on our depth at that position but they're catching the ball at a high level. We're really excited about how the spring game comes out and we've got to keep everybody healthy but I want to see our receivers and DBs compete against each other. That's a good problem that we have on this team right now."

Kicking points

The Pirates showed a commitment to productive placekicking when Jake Verity became a late addition to Montgomery's first recruiting class. Verity connected from 63 yards in high school in Bremen, GA.

"There's nobody on our football team that's probably going to have more points than our kickers," Montgomery said. "We have to be honest with ourselves that there's a level of talent that comes with that so we wanted to spend a scholarship on that to make sure everybody understands how important it is. ... It's something that we've addressed. We've worked. I've personally worked with our kicker this spring to put pressure on him to make sure that he understands and the people who are competing for that role understand that it is a pressure situation. However, you are a football player and every football player is faced with a lot of pressure situations.

"(Kickers) may be a lot less times happening ... but the pressure situation when it occurs is going to be more for you because it's one or two times a game and you've got to make sure that we give him the ability to be in that situation. ... Davis (Plowman) has done a good job for us. ... It's a competition. Everyone has gotten kicks to this point in time. The competition won't just stop at the end of this spring. The competition will continue ... throughout fall."

Player development following spring

Just as Montgomery has motivated his staff to make the most efficient use of its time with players in the spring, the ECU coach wants to make sure that the allotment his assistants and coordinators are allowed to work with players before preseason camp is productive as well.

"The NCAA has given us a certain amount of hours that we can spend with our football team every week," Montgomery said. "We plan on doing that, whether it be on the field or off the field. We plan on using every single minute of that no more or no less. We just want the continuation of spring football and I've told our coaches just like spring ball has certain rules and regulations, summer ball has certain rules and regulations that we've got to be good at.

"Then we'll move right in to fall camp. That's just the way it is. It never stops. I'm happy that we have the ability to keep our guys around and I'm happy that we do have the ability to coach our guys throughout the season."

Nike to adidas

When the Pirates open the season on Sept. 3 against Western Carolina, they will do so in adidas uniforms. Preparations for a lucrative transition from Nike have been taking place.

"We're really, really happy to be working with adidas," Montgomery said. "We loved our relationship with Nike but the business part of it is that we're moving to adidas. ... We're really excited about what they're going to do from a branding standpoint. We're really excited to start a new chapter and see where this goes. From a branding standpoint, I think it's a good, fresh start for not only the staff but our players to get everything that everyone across the country in big time programs, like we have here, has. We're excited about just everything, all the details adidas was able to provide for our guys. We're extremely excited and happy to be working for them. I can't wait for people to see what we look like on game day and our coaches look like on game day and then our practice uniforms everything we're really, really excited about.

Montgomery will have some input on uniforms.

"Absolutely," he said. "We started that a long time ago. It's easy picking it out when it's on paper. I'm more concerned with what it looks like when I get to hold it in my hand. ... Depending on whether I like it or dislike it, we'll get the product where it needs to be."

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