College Sports in the Carolinas
from the East
Thursday, April 10, 2003
By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News &
Debut of new strategies headlines Spring bash
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
“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
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
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
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
“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
“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
Leach said players can sense renewed enthusiasm within and around the
“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.”
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