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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, August 10, 2010

By Brian Bailey

Pirates promise defense, too

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

Much has been made about this Texas Tech offense that Ruffin McNeill brought with him from Lubbock.

Sometimes we forget that Coach McNeill has made his name on defense.

It’s been his job to try and stop the high-flying attack at practice each day over the last ten seasons.

Now McNeill is the head coach. He’s brought in young offensive whiz Lincoln Riley to put points on the board.

Brian Mitchell is the guy that McNeill selected to guide his young defense.

This is a crowd that isn’t planning on playing second fiddle.

“We are going to dictate tempo, just like they are on offense,” said Mitchell at Media Day last Saturday. “We will not be that bend and react type of defense. We are going to blitz when we need to blitz and we’re going to play base when we need to play base.

"The trick is making the blitz look like base and the base look like blitz.”

It’s well documented that the Pirates lost a ton on the defensive line. Linval Joseph is now a New York Giant. C.J. Wilson is a Green Bay Packer. Scottie Robinson and Jay Ross were also key contributors.

“People say we are short on experience because we had those gentlemen who were here so long. I just watched the North Carolina film (from last season) and I’m seeing Josh Smith and Antonio Allison and Marke Powell get some game experience. What you’re asking from those guys is to be sound fundamentally, and we’ll get them caught up with experience.”

Junior Steve Spence played side by side with that former line. He knows they will be missed, but he also likes the players that return.

“Obviously they (last year’s defensive lineman) were a huge part of the success we had these past couple of years. That force up front allowed our linebackers to have free gaps and opens spaces. Those offensive linemen weren’t getting to the second level. Our new guys have talent. They may not have that same size yet, but they are great players. With the skills that they have and the sets that we have implemented, they are going to make some plays for sure.”

The returning Pirate players really haven’t changed their theme this season. This is the same East Carolina program that won back to back Conference USA Championships on the merit of the team’s defense more than anything else.

Spence, a linebacker, says that mentality will continue.

“In the past couple of years our defense has been the big brother on the team,” said Spence. “We will continue to try and do that this year.”

“The challenge is big for all of us," Spence acknowledged. "It’s not like the new guys are coming into the same system that we are all used to. It’s a brand new system for all of us.

"Think about it. Think about how great it will be in doing something no one else has ever done. We will have to take a scheme that we have known less than a year. Just think about what that will feel like when we win that third championship in a row.”

A third title in a row is a tall order. But Spence’s defensive coordinator really likes the players he’s working with.

“I told my guys yesterday that this was the most talented team that I’ve ever been a part of defensively,” said Mitchell. "That’s 16 years and I’ve been a part of some really good defenses. From top to bottom, from the first guy to the last guy, we are very talented.”

Spence notes that early success will require intense preparations.

“We have a ways to go," Spence said. "We have to continue to put all of our tools in the toolbox. We can’t just go out there with a couple of weapons. In order for us to be great, we’re going to utilize every day of practice in this camp so we can get better and then go out there and beat Tulsa.”

The Pirates open the season at home against the Golden Hurricane on Sunday, Sept. 5, in front of the ESPN2 cameras.

In the meantime, the preparations continue in earnest. First up is the first of the summer scrimmages this coming Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.


E-mail Brian Bailey.

Brian Bailey Archives

08/10/2010 03:03 AM


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