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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Thursday, July 17, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Realignment mere blip on Rimpf's honed-in radar


Summer travels feature realignment chatter
ACC move has dual implications for C-USA
League tremors low priority for Rimpf
Tulane CEO bucks BCS, demands reform
Realignment injects urgency into season
Army declares independence
Big East speeds UConn timetable
Bearcats overshadow realignment for ECU
East Carolina fits ACC profile
Can we change the subject, please?
How-to guide: Realigning with class
Friendly merger of leagues adds up
Survival in question for hybrid conferences
Miami Makes the Leap — Now What?
Hurricanes rage over nervous landscape
ACC, Big East on edge about Miami
Leagues caught in eye of the Hurricanes
Media rises to task in ACC-Big East feud

VPI in; Miami ponders; ECU sees opening
ECU chancellor keen on developments
Miami calls timeout to huddle with Big East
BE plans "up front" and "proper" expansion
ACC door cracked open for ECU...?
Mountain West preparing to pounce
Chalk one up for the non-BCS schools
Big East-ACC peace plan in the works?
ECU poised to ride out ACC-Big East storm
ACC deliberations at crossroads
Big Top needed for this circus
Where are you, Governor Easley..?

East Carolina’s offensive line is regarded as one of the best nationally and senior left tackle Brian Rimpf is a big reason why. Rimpf is 6-feet-6 and 320 pounds big, but the considerable magnitude of his credentials doesn’t end there.

A first team All-Conference USA selection the last two years, Rimpf is on the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy that goes to the nation’s top interior lineman. The Lombardi Award, which recognizes college football’s outstanding lineman, has also named Rimpf to its preseason list.

He bench presses 400 pounds and squats 660. Using his high school discus form, he threw a car tire 62 feet — about eight feet farther than any of his teammates — in the offseason Iron Man competition designed by strength and conditioning coach Jim Whitten. He can move his beefy mass 40 yards in 5.27 seconds.

Rimpf grades out well academically, too. After redshirting as a freshman out of Leesville Road High School in Raleigh, Rimpf graduated in May.

His degree is in business administration with a concentration in accounting. He has started working on an MBA.

Not all of Rimpf’s education has been in the classroom over the last few months. The entire ECU program has undergone a systems transformation with the arrival of new coach John Thompson and staff. New offensive line coach J.B. Grimes has changed the Pirates’ approach to trench warfare.

“He’s a pretty intense guy,” Rimpf said of Grimes, who has worked on staffs at Virginia Tech and Texas A & M and who is also associate head coach at ECU. “He brings a different philosophy than we’re used to. He likes smashmouth. I think that’s one reason Vonta (Leach) is at fullback. He likes you being violent with your blocks and trying to dominate people.”

ECU did a lot of zone blocking in its old scheme, trying to beat defenders to a spot and open corridors for 1,000-plus yard rushers such as Leonard Henry and Art Brown. Now the emphasis is on getting physical, overpowering the opposing front and running the ball straight ahead.

Leach, a former linebacker, has been reinvented as a battering ram of a lead blocker who can still punish defenders and pick up yards when his own number is called.

“He has toughness,” Rimpf said of Leach. “He’s almost another offensive lineman in the backfield. He wants to hit anybody and when he gets the ball he will make guys in the secondary second guess as to whether they want to tackle him or not.”

ECU’s revamped schemes may make the Pirates a surprise team this season, better than the preseason predictions that have them rated in C-USA’s lower division. The league’s sports information directors picked ECU seventh in the 11-team league in June. Athlon Magazine slotted the Pirates ninth in C-USA.

“I think people are just looking at the kind of year we had last year and that we lost our coach and some key seniors,” Rimpf said. “Coach Thompson told us himself that we were picked low because this is his first time as a head coach. We’ve had some changes. I think that’s the reason.”

Perhaps the lack of regard for ECU will become a motivating factor for the Pirates.

“I think there will always be some underlying motivation when we don’t get the respect we feel we deserve,” Rimpf said. “But we also have internal motivation, new coaches and new systems. Everybody is kind of getting a new attitude about everything.”

So where would Rimpf slot the Pirates in C -USA?

“Our goal is to win the championship so I’d put us at No. 1,” he said. “ ... The preseason stuff really doesn’t mean much. It’s how you do in the season and postseason. ... We can’t do worse than they’re predicting.”

If summer workouts make a difference in the fall, ECU should be well prepared. Skill position players have been working on passing drills several times a week. Whitten and strength assistant Danny Wheel have been supervising 6:30 a.m. workouts for the linemen. The offensive linemen spend 45 minutes or so working on techniques and another 45 minutes going one on one with the other side of the ball well before the dew dries.

Rimpf looks out for his quarterbacks and that isn’t exclusively in terms of pass protection. Paul Troth, the returning starter under center, met his girlfriend at a wedding shower for Rimpf this past spring. Rimpf and high school sweetheart Lauren McGann were married in May and spent a week in Maui on their honeymoon. She will graduate in May in elementary education.

Instead of rooming with defensive lineman Derek Helms, Rimpf now comes home to Lauren’s cooking. He ranked her top three dishes — 1, chicken parmesan; 2, (Rimpf said he loves Italian) spaghetti and meatballs; and 3, cheesy chicken, which is breaded chicken with cheddar cheese on top.

“It’s good,” he said. “She loves to cook and that suits me just fine. I love to eat. I enjoy going home instead of small quarrels with a roommate. Derek really liked a clean place and I don’t like to clean much. That was pretty much the extent of our arguments.”

Rimpf is active in Chuck Young’s campus SportWorks ministry and his wife is active with Young Life, another ministerial program. Rimpf gives his faith more consideration than say, ECU’s future conference affiliation.

“I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to it,” he said. “I know it won’t affect me. It would be good for ECU to get in a conference that really stresses football or is closer geographically.”

Would a playoff system be the answer?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t really have an opinion. I haven’t thought about a playoff.”

The big guy has thought about where he’d like to be this postseason.

“I’d like to see us play as a team and everybody embrace the new system,” Rimpf said. “I’d like for the fans to get behind us and win football games. Hopefully we can win the conference and go to the Liberty Bowl.”

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02/23/2007 12:40:32 AM

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