NEWS, NOTES &
Friday, November 10, 2006
By Bethany Bradsher
Eskeridge redefines attributes
of a quality LB
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Van Eskeridge came from a small high school with
a big football attitude. So when faced with the challenge of being one of
the smallest players in the East Carolina linebacker corps, he knew how to
approach what looked like a disparity.
“When I first moved (from safety to linebacker),
I was thinking, ‘Man, I’m too small, man, I’m too small,” said Eskeridge, a
redshirt freshman from Shelby who has started four games for the Pirates
this year. “But as I’ve played it more and more and gotten more comfortable
with it, there are some things that I can do to kind of offset my size.”
His primary adjustments at linebacker have to do
with the simple reality that he doesn’t have as much room to roam as he did
in the backfield, he said. And his decision time has to be shorter now,
because plays unfold so quickly for the front seven.
But Eskeridge’s speed is one of the features
that, to opposing players, can make him appear larger than 6-feet tall and
When he was recruited out of Shelby High School,
Eskeridge was considered a safety because of his speed and size, but ECU
defensive coordinator Greg Hudson started to think outside the box,
initially moving Eskeridge up in special situations.
“We moved him there at first for nickel defense,
because of the speed and coverage skills,” Hudson said. “Then we had some
bumps and bruises, and we kept saying, ‘Van is one of our best tacklers.’ So
we moved him there and turned the kid loose, and he’s done it.
"We can’t say enough
positive things about how hard he’s worked and embraced the position.”
Eskeridge is third on the
team in solo tackles, with 27, and has 41 total tackles, making him the
fifth leading Pirate in that category. He has been a steady presence in the
place vacated by the injury of sophomore Quentin Cotton, who was expected to
be one of ECU’s most tenacious defenders this season.
And Eskeridge has earned
his stripes on game days in real time, hitting players whose size and
experience at the collegiate level exceed his.
“That’s the only way to
really mature as a football player, is to play on Saturdays,” Hudson said.
“Anybody can do it in April, or August, or on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. But
Saturday in the fall, that’s when it’s for real. And that’s when he’s played
his best. He has played better than he’s practiced.”
Because Shelby is a small
town where high school football is king and they annually compete against
teams like Gaffney (SC) and Crest, Eskeridge hasn’t been as intimidated by
the move to Division I as one might expect. And it helps that at kickoff of
any given home game, there is a small army of Eskeridges that makes the
expedition Down East from the foothills to watch Van make tackles.
“My mother and father,
brother, sister, nephew, aunts, uncles, everybody, as many tickets as I can
get, they all want to come,” he said. “I’m just glad I have their support.”
It was sound advice from
his head coach at Shelby High School that first drew Eskeridge to East
Carolina. He was one of the first athletes to be pursued by Skip Holtz and
his new staff when they took over, and the potential of a fresh start was
intriguing to him.
“My coach said that he
thought Skip Holtz was going to be a good coach and that it could be a good
move with everyone starting off on the same foot,” he said. “I just thought
it was an up and coming program, and I could be a good fit here.”
He has found his place,
and his team around him also seems to be getting comfortable — with the
feeling of winning and playing up to its potential. Eskeridge considers it a
privilege to be in sync with his teammates as they look toward win number
six against Marshall.
“I just think the team as
a whole took this season as a different approach,” Eskeridge said. “We came
out more focused, more intense, wanting to get better, wanting to win,
staying humble and staying hungry.”
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02/23/2007 01:13:26 AM