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Watch for Al Myatt's profile of new ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in the 2004 Bonesville Magazine.

View from the East
Friday, August 27, 2004

By Al Myatt

Mindset turns to Mountaineers

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Bonesville Magazine

• PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact

• Recruit Profiles
• Rookie Books
• Tracking the Classes
• Florida Pipeline
• NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again


• STEVE BALLARD: New Leader Takes Charge

• SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door

• KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams

• BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate


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East Carolina has entered the third stage of preseason practice — preparing for its season opener at West Virginia on Sept. 4.

In the first stage of August workouts, players were split into two groups and one emphasis was on seeing who among the new players might be capable of contributing immediately.

The focus then shifted to getting the most repetitions in practice to those players who would be on the field the most this season.

Following a scrimmage on Tuesday, Coach John Thompson and staff planned to direct attention to the Mountaineers.

The 2004 season opener looks like a formidable challenge. ECU has never beaten WVU in nine games in Morgantown and trails 13-2 in the overall series. The Mountaineers rolled to a 48-7 win in Greenville in the second game of the 2003 season and have 16 starters back.

Quarterback Rasheed Marshall, who threw for four touchdowns against the Pirates last season, is back.

"We'll play the hand that we've been dealt," said Pirates coach John Thompson, acknowledging the degree of difficulty of the assignment. "You think of Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia coach) and you think of passing the ball, but West Virginia can run, too."

Of WVU's 555 total yards against ECU last season, 361 were on the ground. Five turnovers compounded difficulties for the Pirates. The Mountaineers scored touchdowns on each possession that followed an ECU turnover.

ECU will open the season with a new offensive coordinator, a different quarterback and an old weapon — running back Art Brown — in contrast to the cast drubbed by the 'Neers at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium last season.

One only has to be in the presence of Steve Spurrier disciple Noah Brindise for a few minutes to realize the positive potential of his impact on the program. Sophomore quarterback James Pinkney has emerged under Brindise's tutelage to run the 'fun 'n' gun.

"I think we've gotten a lot better," Brindise said. "We're still in the process of fine-tuning what we do. The passing game is coming around. We've had a few bumps and bruises in the preseason which has limited us as far as having all of our starters out there."

Running back Marvin Townes has missed some preseason time with a concussion and there were dings to personnel on the retooled offensive front as well as the receiving corps. Despite that, the youthful Brindise has been encouraged.

"Overall, I think the guys have gotten a lot better," he said. "I think they've bought in to what we're really trying to do and I'm really excited about coaching this group of guys. We're looking forward to some good things."

The Pirates have piled up some impressive passing numbers in preseason scrimmages. The question there is whether the air game is flourishing because of its new scheme and leadership or because of defensive deficiencies?

That's a question that won't be answered until Sept. 4.

"We feel like we've gotten a lot better defensively," said coordinator Jerry Odom. "We feel like we've gotten a lot more consistent with what we're doing. With another year in the system, the kids know it better. I'm pleased with the way kids have come in and worked in preseason and it makes you think we're going to have some good things come out of this group."

The Pirates have recruited specific to a number of program needs and staff newcomer John Grieco has been charged with preparing the Pirates from a strength and conditioning standpoint. Robert McFarland has been working with an offensive line depleted by graduation.

The Pirates defensive unit also has added a coach in a sense. Thompson, a former defensive coordinator at stops such as Florida, Arkansas and Southern Miss, will concentrate on working with that side of the ball. His approach last season was to spend time with the offense and defense.

"I'm going to be more involved with the defense," Thompson said. "That's where my experience has been and that's where I'm going to spend most of my time. We're going to turn the offense over to Coach Brindise and the offensive staff."

A 1-11 record last season left a lot of room for improvement and specific areas of need have been addressed in the offseason and preseason. Players and coaches are more comfortable after a year together.

Still, with West Virginia looming in the season opener, the Pirates have a very tough initial measuring stick in terms of evaluating improvement. At least the Pirates go to Morgantown before cold weather has set in and the playing surface that used to amount to a piece of carpet over concrete has been replaced.

ECU will get some answers at WVU as well as a hefty payout.

"How much better a football team we're going to be, nobody really knows," Thompson said. "We don't know as a coaching staff. I'm not sure our players know. But we know we're going to be better."


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02/23/2007 12:46:18 AM

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