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College Sports in the Carolinas

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View from the East
Monday, March 24, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Springtime cloak and dagger go by the wayside

Carolinas hoops: Only two postseason entries still standing

©2003 Bonesville.net

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 “run off.”

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 determined.

“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 see.”

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 through.

“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 these players.”

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 week).”

Bigger Blair works out

Defensive lineman Ja’Waren Blair worked out for NFL scouts at Wake Forest last week and was pleased with his effort. “I showed out,” said Blair, ECU’s third leading tackler last season with involvement on 87 stops, including six tackles for losses. Blair bench pressed 225 pounds 26 times, did the NFL shuttle run in 4.65 seconds, had a vertical jump of 33.5 inches and did 9.4 feet in the standing broad jump. Blair has added significant weight since the season ended, now carrying 300 pounds on his 6-foot-6 frame.

Carolinas hoops

The number of teams from the Carolinas in Division I which are still playing basketball has dwindled to two. Duke has overtaken Wake Forest for the top spot as the Blue Devils reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament as the No. 3 seed in the West Regional. North Carolina plays in the second round of the NIT tonight. Let’s go to the rankings.


STATE LINE HOOPS REPORT©

The Top Ten

  1. Duke (26-6) ... The Blue Devils are in the Sweet 16 for the sixth year in a row as Dahntay Jones scored a career-high 28 points and freshman J.J. Redick added 26 in an 86-60 win over Central Michigan on Saturday night. Duke will play No. 2 West seed Kansas in Anaheim, Cal. on Thursday.
  2. Wake Forest (25-6) ... The Deacons were ousted in the second round of the NCAA Tournament 68-62 by Auburn on Sunday in Tampa, Fla. despite 26 points from Justin Gray. ACC player of the year Josh Howard had 14 points on 4 for 10 shooting and committed seven turnovers.
  3. N.C. State (18-13) ... The Wolfpack fell 76-74 to California in the first round of the East Regional in Oklahoma City as Richard Midgley hit the winning 3-pointer for the Bears with 3.9 seconds left in overtime.
  4. North Carolina (18-15) ... The Tar Heels are bidding to be the first team to win both the preseason and postseason NIT after downing DePaul 83-72 on Tuesday night with David Noel scoring a career-high 21 points and Rashad McCants adding 19. UNC hosts Wyoming in the second round at 8 p.m. tonight.
  5. UNC Wilmington (24-7) ... The Seahawks gave a great effort in a 75-73 first round NCAA Tournament South Regional loss to defending champion Maryland on Friday night in Nashville, losing when Drew Nicholas hit a three-pointer on the move under defensive pressure at the buzzer. An 8-for-8 effort behind the arc for UNCW freshman John Goldsberry was an NCAA Tournament record.
  6. South Carolina (12-16) ... Season complete.
  7. Clemson (15-13) ... Season complete.
  8. College of Charleston (25-8) ... The Cougars finished their season with a 69-64 loss at Providence on Saturday night in the second round of the NIT as Tony Mitchell’s 13 points led Coach Tom Herrion’s club.
  9. Charlotte (13-16) ... Season complete.
  10. Davidson (17-10) ... Season complete.
The Not-So-Sweet 17

11. Appalachian State
12. East Carolina (12-15) ... The Pirates have added a commitment from 6-foot-3 shooting guard Mike Cook of New Hampton (N.H.) Prep and are looking for more help at point guard and on the perimeter.
13. Wofford
14. Winthrop
15. South Carolina State (20-11) ... The Bulldogs dropped to 0-5 in the NCAA Tournament with a 71-54 first round loss to Oklahoma in the East Regional in Oklahoma City on Thursday night.
16. Furman
17. Charleston Southern
18. UNC Asheville (15-17) ... The Bulldogs lost to Texas 82-61 on Friday in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament South Regional on Friday in Birmingham, Ala. after winning their play-in game 92-84 in overtime over Texas Southern in Dayton, Ohio on Tuesday.
19. Coastal Carolina
20. Elon
21. UNC Greensboro
22. Western Carolina
23. Gardner-Webb
24. The Citadel
25. High Point
26. Campbell
27. N.C. A&T

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02/23/2007 12:40:58 AM
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