There’s no need for covert surveillance for John Byrum of
Greenville this spring.
Last year, Byrum watched several of the Pirates’ spring
football practices from the bushes between Harrington Field and the Cliff
Moore practice facility, becoming something of a cult hero as he filed his
observations on an ECU Internet board as “Beach Pirate.”
One of his chat room buddies introduced a camouflage ECU cap
in his honor even though Byrum’s vantage point was discovered and he was
ECU fans are reveling in new coach John Thompson’s family
approach, which means the gates to the practice field are open. Thompson is
encouraging fans to watch his program take shape. He’s invited all ECU
students to attend next Saturday’s scrimmage at 9:15 a.m.
There will be a free clinic for high school coaches the
following Saturday, April 5, and the Pirates will play a spring game at 3
p.m. on Sat., April 12.
Thompson said the format for the spring game is yet to be
“It’ll be where there’s two teams out there; there’s teams
on both sides,” said the ECU coach. “We’re going to move the ball and keep
score. It’s not going to be a watered down thing. But whether we’re able to
draft and get our seniors and coaches involved and split up the teams — it’s
just hard to say right now. I hope we can do that but we’ll just have to
Cost of tickets in advance for the spring game will be $7
and will include barbecue.
The Pirates had their first workout of the spring in full
gear on Friday and scrimmaged in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday morning.
A goal-line scrimmage closed the workout on Friday.
“It was real slippery and muddy,” Thompson said after the
Friday practice. “It was sloppy in every regard but there were so many
things to go work on and every time we walk off this field I’m excited about
getting back on it the next time. ... That’s where we are. It’s not so much
going in with expectations every day. It’s just ‘How can we get better?’ and
‘What’s the plan to do a little more?’
“We’ve got guys that are trying to absorb. We’re throwing a
lot of football at ’em on both sides. We’ve put in an awful lot of defense —
a lot of different looks, a lot of different blitzes, a lot of different
personnel packages. That’s slowed us down a little bit on both sides because
our offense is having to react to that and our defense is having to learn
it, but there’s going to be a time when that blossoms.”
In ECU’s scrimmage on Saturday morning, the offense had 49
rushes for 235 yards and completed 16 of 30 passes for 198 yards. There were
six rushing touchdowns and two passing. Dominique Hatcher was the leading
rusher with 16 carries for 68 yards and two touchdowns as he ran mostly
against the second and third defensive units.
“Not bad for a first scrimmage,” said ECU running backs
coach Jerry McManus. “It was a typical first scrimmage with timing and
holding onto the ball being factors, but the effort and enthusiasm was the
encouraging thing. The kids played hard. The other stuff is correctable. As
long as you’ve got that effort and enthusiasm, you’ve got a chance.”
Paul Troth completed 5 of 8 passes for 73 yards with a
14-yard scoring toss to Terrance Copper. Desmond Robinson completed 5 of 13
for 69 yards with a 7-yard score to Kevin Roach. James Pinkney completed 2
of 6 passes for 21 yards.
Thompson said he saw better execution with just four days of
spring practice than he had anticipated. Thompson was in a similar situation
at Florida last season as defensive coordinator — part of a new staff
installing a new system.
“It’s a little bit different in this role but it’s similar
in that you’ve got a brand new coaching staff together. These guys — I’ve
never seen a group that has worked as cohesive as these guys have and really
out to make sure the other side of the ball is getting better. Our offense
is cognizant of what our defense needs and doesn’t need and our defense is
doing the same thing. That doesn’t do anything but get us better all the way
“It’s a good mix between both sides and we’re all getting
better every day instead of just kind of one-sided. ... It was probably
later in the year before we really found ourselves at Florida. It was two or
three games before we really settled in to what we were doing. We went in
there with a brand new package. ... Like it is here, we’ll kind of evolve
and find out what kind of team we are. We put in the same system last year
at Florida and tried to build that around the players that we had there.
“We’ll try to put in a system here that we’ll build around
The emphasis on special teams will shift this week.
“We stressed punt protection and our punting game this
week,” Thompson said. “Next week we go to punt return and a little kickoff
coverage and kickoff return — so more emphasis on the kicking game, but
everything else will stay the same in terms of just keep repping, keep
fundamentaling and just keep showing our guys the same thing over and over
and over and over and get as many reps as we can in four practices (this