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View from the East
Friday, February 6, 2004

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Thompson points to spring evolution

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The East Carolina coaching staff has harvested its incoming class for 2004. Although recruiting never ends, it is not the all-consuming priority that it becomes from the time a season is completed until the time those letters of intent are faxed to the ECU football office on signing day.

“Now it’s time to turn the page,” Pirates coach John Thompson said on Thursday. “The focus never really leaves the season and it never leaves recruiting, but it’s time to turn our attention to spring ball and our own players.”

Thompson said spring practice would start on Tuesday, March 2. The spring game, in conjunction with the Great Pirate Pigskin Pig-Out, will be Saturday, March 27.

There will be a clinic for high school coaches the first weekend of spring practice, March 5-6. Dan Werner, quarterbacks coach at the University of Miami, will be a featured speaker at the clinic.

“It’s going to be a lot different in some ways,” Thompson said of spring workouts this year. “We know where we need to get better and we know our players. We’re looking forward to getting out there. Right now it’s not what letter to write or what call to make, like it is during recruiting. The whole coaching business is all intertwined but now the focus changes.”

Spring ball was a learning experience for Pirate players and coaches last season. The coaches were learning each other and their personnel as well as teaching new systems. There will still be some learning and teaching this year, especially on the offensive side where new coordinator Noah Brindise has been charged with revamping ECU’s attack.

“Noah will be running the offense and calling the plays,” said Thompson, a longtime defensive coordinator at stops including Florida, Arkansas and Southern Miss. “The (Florida) system that Noah believes in and comes from was always the toughest to prepare for. ... It had a little bit of everything. I won’t call it trickery but it’s an offense that does a lot of things and makes you work on defense. I like the terminology and how he plans to teach the system.

“It will be different from last year. We want a power running game and we’ve got to find a way to get the ball down the field throwing it. We didn’t have a lot of continuity between our receivers and quarterbacks last year. That’s where this offense can be so much better.”

Three junior college players from Thompson’s second recruiting class have already enrolled and will take part in Thompson’s second spring session. That trio includes safety Zack Baker, tight end Shawn Levesque and offensive lineman Joel Renaud. Thompson feels like the newcomers will improve the program.

“We feel good about the guys we got,” he said. “We’ve improved our team immediately and for the future. I don’t think there’s any question about that.”

ECU only signed three players from North Carolina compared to 16 with Florida roots but keep in mind that Thompson and defensive coordinator Jerry Odom were much more aware of the young talent in the Sunshine state having come to the Pirates from the Gators program. That’s one factor that makes the coaching clinic important.

“We want to get the high school coaches on our campus and get to know them,” Thompson said.

The ECU staff also will be featured at the clinic along with prep coaches such as Greg Thomas, a former Pirates player who guided Greenville Rose to the NCHSAA 4-A championship in 2003.

More familiarity with in-state high school coaches can only help future in-state recruiting. There will be a small fee for high school coaches to attend the clinic. For more information, coaches may call the ECU football office at (252) 328-4570. The clinic will include a chalk talk on Friday night and access to a scrimmage on Saturday.

Thompson has started assembling a new playbook since the new class of recruits put their names on the dotted line. The new playbook will become the text of reference for the Pirates in spring practice. The second time around should be different.

“We know what we need to work on now,” Thompson said. “We’re thin in some areas but we’ll get better. Instead of finding out what we need to work on, we’ll be working on it.”

The other Herrion

College of Charleston coach Tom Herrion is the younger brother of East Carolina coach Bill Herrion and his Cougars are one of the top programs in the Southern Conference. The brothers stay in touch.

“We speak on a daily basis pretty much,” said Tom, whose team is 8-1 in league play and 16-3 overall after a challenging non-conference schedule that included losses at Auburn and Wisconsin. “We follow each other’s teams very closely. ... We’re communicating on a daily basis.”

Naturally, the younger Herrion was happy that Bill’s team was able to end its futility in Conference USA road games with a narrow win at South Florida on Tuesday night. But don’t look for the Herrion brothers to measure each other competitively in the near future.

“From the outside looking in it might be kind of cute and neat to play each other, but I’m not sure it would be healthy,” Tom said. “ ... After 40 minutes, one of us is going to win and one of us is going to lose. This is a vicious profession and I’m not sure it would be a good thing.”

Tom Herrion’s Cougars play on ESPN2 on Feb. 21 at 4 p.m. at Western Michigan in a “Bracket Busters” matchup.

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02/23/2007 12:45:02 AM

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