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College Sports in the Carolinas


View from the East
Thursday, April 10, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Debut of new strategies headlines Spring bash

QB race... New strategies... Fans win... Bones to fly... Pig-Out schedule... Purple-Gold rosters... Depth chart... Injury list...


Does the name Noel Mazzone ring a bell?

He was in the mix at one time when East Carolina coach John Thompson was in the hiring process for an offensive coordinator.

Mazzone has surfaced at N.C. State, where added to the staff of. Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato on Wednesday. Mazzone will serve as offensive coordinator and tight ends coach.

Mazzone coached running backs and special teams last season at Oregon State. In a 23-year coaching career, he has worked in the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-10.

“Coach Mazzone is a great addition to our strong staff,” said Amato in an NCSU release. “He came highly recommended from many people who I respect in the business. When I had a chance to sit down and visit with him, I was even more impressed with his knowledge and enthusiasm. He’s been in big games, at big schools and in big leagues. That’s what we’re looking for at NC State.”

The significance of the situation as it relates to ECU is that Thompson feels he got what he was looking for with his final choice for offensive coordinator, former Clemson receivers coach Rick Stockstill. Clemson people feel they lost a top recruiter and Thompson has been very pleased with overall staff chemistry. Pirates quarterback Paul Troth likes the new offense and that may be the bottom line.

Troth enjoys spring

The spring depth chart lists Troth on top followed by Desmond Robinson, James Pinkney and Sakeen Wright.

“Spring has been a lot of fun from the aspect of a competitive nature,” Troth said. “It brought the best out of me and the whole team. The enthusiasm in the practices helps a lot and I just feel like with the performances I’ve had in the scrimmages and practices that I earned the job. It’s all about keeping it now, which is just as hard — showing the leadership capabilities to come out everyday and lead this offense to take us where we need to go.

“From the performances of everybody on the offensive side of the ball I think we’re going to have a good team this year. ... My job is just to follow the rules Coach Stock (offensive coordinator Rick Stockstill) has given us — just go out there and execute. We’re getting better at that every day.”

Purple-Gold game

The new schemes will be on display at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium as the Pirates play their first spring football game since 1998. Game conditions will be closely approximated, although quarters will be shortened to 12 minutes and there may be some adjustments in special team situations.

The draft for the game was done earlier this week, subject to final approval from Thompson. Three rising seniors did the picks for each team. Thompson said each group had 30 seconds to make a pick.

The Purple team was selected by wide receiver Terrance Copper, defensive tackle Damane Duckett and cornerback Brandon Rainer. The Gold team was drafted by offensive tackle Corey Schmidt, fullback Vonta Leach and strong safety Travis Heath.

Thompson said the winning team would have a better meal than the losers. The losers may have to serve the nicer meal to the winners. The details of the incentives had not been completed earlier this week but Leach wasn’t planning on losing.

“I want to see you in an apron,” Leach told Duckett.

The Pirates have had a monumental spring. There has been a lot of teaching, a lot of competition for positions and a lot of hitting. All of that was necessary given the fact that the program is essentially starting over.

Thompson has been especially pleased with the sustained effort over the course of four weeks of workouts.

“There is a tendency in the spring to let up after the eighth, ninth or tenth practice and think you’ve made it through,” said the Pirates coach. “That hasn’t happened.”

Part of the credit for that would be the return of the spring game dangling like a carrot at the end of spring practice.

The fans are are also motivated. They look forward to watching the action within the context of the 20th annual Great Pirate Purple/Gold Pigskin Pig-Out Party, which is presented by Toyota. Regional Toyota dealers are underwriting the occasion with a contribution of $20,000.

Lee Workman, assistant athletics director for special projects, estimated that the event had probably raised between $500,000 to $750,000 over the course of its existence.

Leach finds a niche

Once thought to be the successor to Pernell Griffin at inside linebacker, Vonta Leach has found a home on the other side of the ball at fullback. He made the move last year but the new offense takes better advantage of his skills.

“Last year the offense didn’t really fit me,” Leach said. “We didn’t have a fulltime fullback in that system. It was more one-back set. This year, we’re going to more two-back set and the fullback is involved in the offense more.

“Primarily they use the fullback for blocking but they do have some designed running plays and some designed passing plays for me. The primary thing is blocking. I have no problem blocking for the running backs.

“If they give me the ball ... I feel like I can move the ball. I’m kind of like an (Mike) Alstott, but I’ve got some moves I can show.”

Leach said the Pirates will present a diverse package.

“We’re going to run the ball,” he said. “We’ve got three good running backs — Art Brown, Marvin Townes and Dominique Hatcher. Then we can line it up and throw the ball. We’re going to throw a lot of different things at the opposing defense. They’ll never know what we’re going to do.”

Brown, incidentally, will miss the spring game with an injured left knee. Thompson said there are players who might be able to play in an actual game situation who will sit out of the spring game in the best interests of their recovery.

Leach said players can sense renewed enthusiasm within and around the program.

“There’s new excitement, new life,” Leach said. “Coach (Steve) Logan was a good coach but I think when you’re in the position and you’re here for so long you just get laid back. ... The new coach brought in a lot of enthusiasm and stuff. This is the most excited the players have ever been.

“Players have been looking forward to practice, looking forward to the spring game and everything.”

Leach said Monday the first thing he would look for in the Purple/Gold draft was front line heavyweights.

“You can’t do nothing without offensive linemen,” he said. “I’m going to take an offensive lineman the first pick.”

QB race... New strategies... Fans win... Bones to fly... Pig-Out schedule... Purple-Gold rosters... Depth chart... Injury list...

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02/22/2007 11:53:42 PM

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