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ECU News, Notes and Commentary

The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, September 21, 2005

By Bethany Bradsher

Teaching high on staff's priority list


With a taxing loss behind them and their toughest challenge ahead, it would seem that the East Carolina Pirates are looking for a little bit of overachievement at West Virginia on Saturday.

But defensive coordinator Greg Hudson isn’t impressed by the idea of athletes going beyond their limits. He just wants solid performances with minimal mistakes.

“I just want them to do their job as hard as they can,” Hudson said. “I think there’s no such thing as 110 percent. It’s mathematically not possible. I just want them to do their job as hard as they can, and when they can’t go any harder, we’ll put somebody else in.”

Despite giving up 407 rushing yards to Wake Forest’s nearly impeccable ground game last week, Hudson and head coach Skip Holtz said that the defensive front is capable of building a less penetrable wall by making adjustments and keeping assignments.

“There were plenty of correctable mistakes that are coaching,” Holtz said. “And I think when you look at a football team that is playing as hard as this football team is right now, a team that has bought in the way this football team and the way they’re going to compete and not quit and keep fighting, then I think the first thing we have to do as coaches is look at ourselves and say, ‘We’ve got to do a better job of teaching them.’ "

The Mountaineers will provide miles of testing ground for the burgeoning ECU defense, with a crew of four running backs contributing to the offense. WVU is the Pirates’ most talented opponent yet, Holtz said, with an average of 412 offensive yards a game and a defense that is giving up only 1.5 yards per rush.

“Their three linebackers who are 255, 230 and 225 are very active, athletic linebackers that are very involved, and they’re very, very aggressive,” Holtz said.” And I think that’s what makes their defense so strong.”

Last season’s trip to Morgantown was one of the season’s most frustrating outings for the Pirates, with the Mountaineers winning 56-23 and gaining 621 total offensive yards. WVU leads the series 14-2 and has been the victor in all 10 games played on its home field. But it won’t do the Pirates any good to wish for a less daunting challenge at this point in their season, Holtz said.

“This is what’s on the schedule,” he said. “This is what we’ve got to play.”

Red-shirt scenarios

From the Pirate coaches’ perspective, it’s still not too late to take the red shirt off a freshman or two this season, but Holtz said that he would only make that call if the player was capable of meeting an immediate need. Early on, it seemed that the true freshman with the best chance of seeing playing time was Scotty Robinson, a linebacker from Salisbury who broke his hand during the preseason.

Only two new freshmen are listed on the Pirates’ two-deep at this point — second-string kicker Ben Hartman and second-string deep snapper Wilson Raynor, and running back Dominique Lindsay has contributed on special teams during both games. Two others who could be activated are running back Jerek Hewett and defensive back Chris Mattocks, but Holtz said that he would make such decisions with great care.

“We are still sitting in a situation to see how this season’s going to go, but Mattocks and Hewett are probably one injury away from playing, from saying we’re going to take their year. I don’t want to use their year and then say, ‘You know what? I really wish we hadn’t played them early.”

Where's the beef?

East Carolina’s running game is still lagging behind other elements of its game, as evidenced by its average of 110 rushing yards over the first two games. In an effort to inject energy into its ground game, the offensive coaches have shuffled the starters around on the line. One significant change moved 330-pound Gary Freeman to center to act as a strong center pole for the line, moving fellow senior Hunter Wood to second string.

“Hunter Wood, his desire is there, his want-to is there, I just don’t know if he has enough lead in his pencil,” Holtz said. “He’s just too light. Which is why we felt we had to stabilize the middle of our line a little bit more, and obviously putting Shamu in the middle of your line helps do that for you.”

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02/23/2007 01:11:42 AM

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