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View from the 'ville
Thursday, June 21, 2007

By Al Myatt

<<< GO TO PART TWO >>>

Holtz & Co. making the most of summer

Editor's note: This is the first article in a two-part series by senior columnist Al Myatt based on an interview with East Carolina head football coach Skip Holtz. Myatt's exchange with Holtz focused on aspects of the Pirates' offseason. Part two was published July 5, 2007.

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Skip Holtz said somebody once asked him what he did.

"I'm a football coach," he replied.

Then, Holtz recalled, "They asked me what I did the rest of the year."

While some may figure this is the time of year that Holtz would be playing golf, relaxing or hanging out, there is also plenty of job-related business to keep the East Carolina coach occupied in the offseason.

"We've got a large number of our team that's here for summer school," he said. "We're trying to make sure that they're doing everything they're supposed to do academically."

On Saturday, ECU will host high school teams for a one-day passing camp. Several individual camps already were held in mid-June.

Camps have become an increasingly valuable tool in the recruiting process. The Pirates have several verbal commitments for the signing class of February, 2008, but Holtz noted that ECU's upcoming recruiting class will be smaller.

"You sit down and kind of look at your depth chart by class," he said. "We have numbers that we try to meet at every position. You look at what you're graduating. Obviously, you're always going to try to sign a couple of offensive linemen.

"You're kind of looking at where you're going to have a little bit of attrition. We only have 13 seniors in this class so we don't have a very big class that we're looking to sign next year. We'll probably have the smallest class that we've signed since we've been here."

There are good and bad aspects to the limited number of scholarships that will be available.

"From a recruiting standpoint, you'd love to bring more talent in here," said Holtz, who enters his third season at the Pirate helm. "But at the same time it's a positive because it means you're returning a large nucleus of your team, which we haven't had the ability to do yet."

There are also organizational meetings with the offensive and defensive staffs.

"We're trying to put everything together and, at the same time, get out of here a little bit," Holtz said. "We want to get away a little bit and recharge the batteries before we get back to work."

ECU opens the 2007 season at Virginia Tech on Sept. 1. Players will convene for fall camp in August. A productive spring practice has given the ECU coaches a grasp of their starting point for preseason workouts.

"Spring ball allows you to look and see what your needs are and what you've got to find," Holtz said. "The depth chart has started to take some shape. We have a pretty good idea of where everybody is, what some of our strengths are, and, at the same time, what some of our weaknesses are and what we need to do to be able to hide some of those.

"I've got a pretty good feel coming out of spring. I feel like our players worked extremely hard. They're working extremely hard now. Some of these guys are going to continue to develop, because for a lot of them, they're just young and they just need the opportunity to develop."

A case in point is redshirt freshman offensive lineman Doug Polochak, who has added over 60 pounds to his 6-foot-4 frame since his junior season at Nease High in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL.

"I just throw out a young guy like Doug Polochak, for example," Holtz said. "He was redshirted last year because of a shoulder injury. His whole thing after spring ball — he's got good feet and he's going to be a really good lineman — he's just got to get stronger.

"I'm hoping that he can make some strides this summer that will give him a chance to be competitive in the fall."

Mike Golden, ECU's strength and conditioning director, is in charge of making the Pirates all they can be physically. Summer is a Golden time for building football bodies.

"There are a couple of things your strength coach is trying to get done during the course of the summer," Holtz said. "Obviously, you have to coach technique when you're in the weight room so you're not getting somebody hurt, which we can't afford to do right now.

"You have to be very knowledgeable with the core lifts that you're going to operate to get them stronger. You've got to be very knowledgeable from the conditioning standpoint. You've got to be sure you're not just developing strength. It has to be strength, conditioning and flexibility.

"(Golden) is excellent at understanding the balance of all that. One of the biggest things a strength coach needs to develop as well is the mental toughness. It's an opportunity to teach young men how to really strain their bodies and how to compete when they're tired. That's one of the things you have to do in order to learn how to play this game."

Holtz and his staff have some "get away" time coming up before immersing themselves in preparations for a challenging and compelling schedule in 2007. Holtz said he doesn't have any elaborate vacation plans.

"When you've got a 13-, a 10- and an eight-year old, you don't get to make many plans," he said. "Your plans are pretty much made for you. Their summers are pretty much set with different camps they're going to, birthday parties and all that different-type stuff.

"We'll be kind of in and out around here but we don't have anything elaborate that we're going to go do this summer. I'll try and spend time with the family, recharge the batteries and get ready to get back to work."


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07/05/2007 01:29:05 AM


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