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View from the East
Monday, March 31, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Spring drills: Offense clicking, defense learning

©2003 Bonesville.net

East Carolina has eight spring football practices completed with seven remaining. Coach John Thompson knows there are 37 practice opportunities remaining before the Pirates open the 2003 season at Cincinnati on Sept.1. That’s without 3-a-day practice sessions in August as ECU had under former coach Steve Logan.

“The NCAA says you have to do it different now,” Thompson said. “If you practice twice one day, you can only practice once the next day.”

For now, the Pirates are working out four times a week in the spring.

“We’ve made a lot of progress on both sides of the ball and we put in some kicking game this week,” Thompson said. “We really stressed again our punt protection. We put in a little punt return and kickoff cover and kickoff return, so that’s good to go ahead and get a jump on that.

“I think our guys are starting to understand a lot more. It’s like learning a new language, all the different terminology and the way we’re doing things. I think we’ve made a lot or progress. ... We’re pretty satisfied with where we are in terms of progress, not in terms of where we need to be. In terms of progress, we’re satisfied.”

The old school of thought that it takes longer to develop timing and execution on offense as opposed to defense may not be true this spring at ECU.

“I don’t really think that’s been the case here this week or even the last two weeks,” Thompson said. “Our offense has really executed well. We really tried to keep a lot of the terminology the same so there probably wasn’t as much difference in our offense. Rick (Stockstill, offensive coordinator), J.B. (Grimes, offensive line coach), Steve (Janski, tight ends), Lonnie (Galloway, wide receivers), Jerry Mac (McManus, running backs) — all those guys have really done an outstanding job teaching the offense. It’s really been good.

“Defensively, it’s all been brand new. We do that a little bit different there. It’s the whole, part, whole theory over there. Jerry (Odom, defensive coordinator) really threw a whole lot at them the first week. This week they’ve kind of come back and pieced it back together so you can see the big picture but defensively we’re probably not as far along as we are offensively because of those factors.”

The Pirates played some four front defense in their scrimmage on Saturday.

“We threw a lot of the package at them (defensively),” Thompson said. “They didn’t throw the whole package in. I don’t want to say it was 75 or 80 percent but they threw a lot of the package at ’em. Then they come back and it’s like here’s what the car engine looks like. Now you break that car engine down and put it back together again and you can really understand it. It’s a teaching progression that we’ve used and it’ll work. It just takes a little bit different time that way.”

Paul Troth completed 16 of 24 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in the varied situational scrimmage at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Desmond Robinson completed 5 of 13 for 62 yards with one interception and James Pinkney completed 4 of 7 for 42 yards.

Marvin Townes led the rushing with 15 carries for 88 yards and also caught four passes for 23 yards. Terrance Copper was the top receiver with seven catches for 44 yards.

“Desmond and Paul both executed,” Thompson said after a workout on Friday. “We had a little third down competition today and they both turned the ball over. We’ll go back and look at the tape and see how much that had to do with the defense and how much it had to do with execution on offense.

“But we see those guys getting better and better and better and having so much more confidence. We still have a lot of work to do at that position but those two guys are winners.”

The Pirates have maintained a high level of effort.

“There’s no lollygagging out there,” said one fan who watched Saturday’s scrimmage.

“Our guys have really tried real hard,” Thompson said. “There has not been one day where we came out here and said, ‘Hey, we did not get it from ’em. So many times we’re thinking and that slows ’em down. If you’re not sure what to do that kind of puts you in a different gear but we can see it coming. We’re starting to play faster. We’re starting to enjoy it.”

Thompson knows the Saturday morning scrimmages following Friday afternoon practices is a demanding situation.

“It’s a hard game,” he said. “You come out here and practice hard on Friday afternoon, then turn right back around on Saturday morning in the spring when there’s a lot of other things going on. It’s asking a lot but we see who wants to suck it up.”

The coaching staff that Thompson assembled with an eye on group chemistry is functioning well.

“What a blessing and a thrill it is every day,” Thompson said. “I see this staff really molding together. We’ve got great chemistry. We’ve got great teachers. We’ve got guys that love to recruit and they’re going to take this team. We’re going to get better and better and better and better. There’s not a one of them in there that comes to work and says, ‘Well, we don’t have this or we don’t have that.’ Everybody comes in there and says, ‘This is what we’ve got to do today to get better.’ Love ’em.”

Thompson was watching closely for signs of competition and improvement at the scrimmage.

“We’re looking for the guys who are going to compete and get better,” he said. “You know, don’t make the same mistake. Make a new mistake — but don’t repeat the mistakes.”

Young ‘Shank’ moves

Redshirt freshman Kort Shankweiler, the son of former ECU offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler, who is now coaching the O-line at Cincinnati, is no longer buried on the depth chart at quarterback. The younger Shankweiler has moved to tight end.

“He came to me last Thursday and said he thought that he could help the team somewhere else better,” Thompson said.

Pinkney and Sakeen Wright continue to work at quarterback although Troth and Robinson are getting the majority of reps in practice.

Music at the cash register

Country musician Alan Jackson is scheduled to headline a concert at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on May 17. Ticket prices range from $16 to $42 and there were people waiting in line last Friday morning before sunrise to buy the tickets that went on sale on Saturday morning. The ECU athletic department is glad to see such interest. Projected revenue for ECU athletics from the concert is $150,000.

Chancellor praises hoops coaches

As reported earlier, the board of trustees at East Carolina approved contract extensions and raises for men’s basketball coach Bill Herrion and women’s basketball coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener during their business at a day-long meeting at the Murphy Center on Friday.

“In both cases we looked very favorably on the performance of the coaches,” said ECU chancellor William Muse. “In terms of Coach Baldwin-Tener, we’re all very impressed with the job that she did this year. She took almost the same players and won twice as many games. We’ve been very impressed with her coaching ability as well as her as an individual.

“We’re delighted with Coach Herrion’s effort to develop a strong program here. He has done everything that could be expected of him in trying to develop support for our basketball team. Our attendance this year would be a good indication of that. We’re obviously a year or so away from being at the level of competitiveness that we want to be in Conference USA.

“I think Coach Herrion would be the first to acknowledge that and he’s also working as hard as anybody to try and achieve that. We’re very pleased with him as a coach and hope to see certainly better performance by the team in the future and we think we will.”

The job performance of athletics director Mike Hamrick, who recommended the contract amendments for Herrion and Baldwin-Tener, was also discussed.

“I can’t really share any details with you,” Muse said. “This was a closed session and the policy of the board provides that information is confidential. I certainly can confirm that it was discussed. I can’t really tell you anything beyond that.”

Hamrick’s contract runs to July 1, 2005 at $180,000 annually plus bonuses.

“I don’t know of anything that’s being investigated.” Muse said in regard to the athletics department. “There’s a contract in place. There’s no modification of that contract. Any modification of his contract has to be approved by the board. There was no modification of that contract.”

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02/23/2007 12:40:59 AM
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