NEWS, NOTES &
Friday, March 23, 2007
By Bethany Bradsher
Hokies not the only spring motivator
By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.
It hardly feels like spring yet, so summer and
fall are beyond imagination when the East Carolina football team takes the
field for its annual rite of the season that should really be called “winter
to spring” football.
The Pirates know their
first opponent is Virginia Tech, but in reality that game is still nearly
half a year away, and no one really knows what the team will look like by
So what is the source of
motivation for players who come out and run drills day after day in March?
It’s simple, coach Skip
Holtz said. They’re competing fiercely for their positions on the depth
“Everybody’s fighting for
a job,” he said. “They understand what’s on the line every time they walk
out here. They could cheat a practice and get through it, but it’s going to
show up on test day when we get out to these scrimmages.”
When the coaching staff
needs to impart a little more gravity to this four-week series of workouts,
they remind the three classes of players on hand that when preseason ball
starts in August, the new freshmen will be there too.
And those freshmen, the
coaches remind the current Pirates, will be more than happy to throw their
hats in the ring for starting roles.
“If they can’t earn it in
the spring, the underclassmen are going to have an opportunity to step in,"
said Holtz. "And I say it all the time, that the underclassmen play because
the upperclassmen give them a chance in the spring.”
Junior linebacker Fred
Wilson seems headed for a top job on the 2007 defense, and he is trying to
set the pace in spring by staying sharp and keeping the end in mind every
day, he said. The more focused he becomes, the more the months between today
and the season opener seem to evaporate.
“The time goes by real
fast,” said Wilson, who was ranked fifth on the team with 56 tackles last
season. “The first game against Virginia Tech, that’s a game that we’re
definitely waiting on. We’re out here practicing like the game is next
Josh Coffman is looking
at a senior season in which he’ll be one of the offensive anchors for the
Pirates after being named to the Conference USA All-Conference second team
for his 2006 performance. As he sees it, spring practice is more about team
progress than it is about individual development.
“I’m motivated by the
drive to get better, to develop as a team and lay down the foundation for
next year,” Coffman said. “We need to try to get everybody on the same page
going into the season so that we can have a united front against Virginia
Spring is also a time to
try playing some unfamiliar positions, and every year the coaches seem to
pinpoint at least one athlete who is not playing in his optimum place and
would be better served by playing elsewhere. Of course, that’s a phenomenon
that’s not out of the ordinary for the offensive lineman, Coffman said,
since injuries forced many of them to play more than one line position last
“You have to be prepared
for whatever is coming,” said Coffman, who played both guard and tackle last
year. “Coach Shank (offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler) really pushes
that in us, because one day he’ll come into practice and say, ‘Hey, why
don’t you try this position?’ He really keeps us on our toes.”
If the offensive line is
in a state of flux, it’s a microcosm of the entire team at this point, Holtz
said. There are plenty of rough edges showing up every day on the field,
some junior college recruits that are not in spring drills could contribute
right away, and players like Pierre Bell, Terrance Campbell and Willie
Barton are out with injuries.
But for the coaches, the
slow molding process from individual football players to a formidable team
is really what spring is all about.
“I keep looking at this
thing,” Holtz said. “We have some talent, some speed. But we are very young
right now. It’s very hard to put it all together. We’ve got to look at
things in pieces right now. We’ll put it together as best we can with what
we have to work with.”
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03/23/2007 01:40:42 AM