Whether it was the product that new football coach Scottie Montgomery
and staff are developing on the field or the recently-formulated plans
to renovate the south side of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, which were unveiled
Saturday on the big scoreboard screen at halftime of the Purple-Gold
game, it's obvious that East Carolina has launched into a significant
A $55 million renovation of
the press box side of the Pirates' gridiron home since 1963 is planned
for completion in time for the 2018 season, when the incoming freshmen
The facility upgrade will
greatly enhance the game day experience for those willing to commit
financially for premium seating.
The perks are numerous with
cable television hookups available in an exclusive parking area, just
the thing for tailgaters who want to see what's going on around the
country on game day.
Athletic director Jeff
Compher said all 14 suites planned for the project have already been
sold. A significant chunk of the $15 million to be raised has already
been pledged. Bonds will finance the remainder.
A crowd of 7,322 saw Kurt
Benkert open the momentous occasion with a 75-yard touchdown pass to
Trevon Brown on the first snap.
Benkert, who said he is
about "80 percent" from a knee injury that kept him out of action during
a 5-7 season in 2015 (3-5 AAC), had Brown and Jimmy Williams play rock,
paper and scissors to see who would be his initial target.
"Brown won," Benkert said.
Who will win the starting
quarterback job wasn't settled on a sunny day that completed the spring
workouts. Benkert and Minnesota/Rutgers transfer Philip Nelson are
competing like Batman v Superman, without the ill will.
"They both played clean,"
said offensive coordinator Tony Petersen. "They made good decisions with
the ball. They didn't put the ball in danger. ... Today, I didn't see
anything that would sway it one way or another. They both had a great
spring ball. They were right there together. I would say that will carry
through the summer and into camp. We'll have to figure out what we're
going to do there."
The numbers from the
offense vs. defense format included 447 passing yards, a good afternoon
even by the standards of quarterback Shane Carden and offensive
coordinator Lincoln Riley from two seasons ago.
Benkert completed 12 of 25
for 216 yards with the score to Brown and an interception that DaShaun
Amos brought back 38 yards. Nelson connected on 13 of 24 attempts for
Benkert's Purple team
outscored Nelson's Gold unit, 17-13.
"I liked the tempo of our
offense, but we have to clean up the mental errors and penalties,
Montgomery said in his general appraisal. The defense felt the tempo
today for the first time in a long time and we have to tackle better.
Coach (Jeff) Connors (assistant athletic director for strength and
conditioning) has us in great shape and I'm looking forward to the
Petersen said a decision
will eventually have to be made as to who directs the offense. All
things equal, it would make sense to go with Benkert, who is a junior,
over Nelson, a senior, because Benkert could give ECU experience going
All things are not equal
"There is some difference
in those quarterbacks," Montgomery said. "Anybody can see that. They
have their positives. Both of them are tremendously talented from the
standpoint of leadership. That's what makes a quarterback in the end.
"When they walk into a
meeting room, either one of them, when they walk into a meeting room,
everyone is quiet. Everyone. When they walk in there, they have command
of the team. ... Athletically, they're different. One is arm talent. One
is complete generalship. It's going to be hard deal."
ECU developed into a
two-quarterback team last year with Blake Kemp, who has since left the
program, and James Summers, who gained eight yards on four carries as a
running back Saturday.
that Duke used two quarterbacks in a season during his time on the Blue
Devils coaching staff.
"We've been in it at Duke,
of course," Montgomery said. "We would have preferred to have one guy to
lead the program."
Nelson became interested in
ECU through Dave Kass, the father of former Pirates quarterback Rob Kass.
Nelson's family knew Dave Kass in Minnesota. Coincidentally, perhaps,
Rob Kass split time with Patrick Pinkney in 2007.
Petersen said that John
Jacobs, a freshman quarterback who redshirted last season, did not
participate in spring practice. Jacobs was not hurt. Ray Smith took
third team snaps in the spring.
While the offense
accumulated 573 yards on 86 snaps, the defense had its moments, too.
"We got some third down
wins defensively and a fourth down win," Montgomery said.
The offense didn't appear
drastically transformed from the system Riley developed after arriving
from Texas Tech.
"The difference is in the
details," said returning running back Anthony Scott, who ran 10 times
for 47 yards with a 15-yard touchdown that drew the Gold within 17-13 on
left-footed Caleb Pratt's conversion kick.
Davis Plowman and Pratt are
competing for the placekicking assignment. Plowman hit a 28-yard field
goal and a 27-yarder after the pick by Amos. Pratt, who boomed kickoffs
last season, was true from 23 yards. Incoming scholarship freshman Jake
Verity will be joining the kicking competition.
There were enough big plays
to be entertaining offensively, enough big plays to cause concerns for
the other side of the ball, but that is the nature of an intrasquad
Those in decision-making
positions obviously feel good enough about the program's potential to
launch the latest building plan.
The proposed south side
tower would include 1,000 premium seats through a new club level, loge
boxes and suites. A modern press box is planned. There also will be
improvements to spaces for athletes in the Ward Sports Medicine Building
and Scales Field House. New hitting facilities for the baseball and
softball teams are planned, too.
The existing press box was
erected in 1978. Its days are apparently numbered.
"It will be a great kind of
finishing touch for our entire athletics complex," Compher said. "This
is the one thing that doesn't go with the rest of everything we've done
here, whether it be the Smith-Williams Center (basketball practice
facility) or baseball, softball, track, soccer field all of that. This
will finish it off really into a first class athletic village on our
campus that indicates our commitment to athletics at the highest level.
"Coach Montgomery is
especially excited about it. He knows what it will mean for his
recruiting but also the other enhancements that we're doing."
The training rooms and
locker rooms as well as team meeting areas are due for upgrades. A team
lounge is planned.
"All of those things will
really impact his program," Compher said.
Montgomery took a
microphone on the field to present individual awards for spring ball at
halftime to the applause from fans for each recipient.
That was something new.
There will be a lot of new
things in store for the ECU program, including one that will rise well
above Saturday's scrimmage on Bagwell Field.