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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, March 8, 2006

By Bethany Bradsher

Spring finds Pirates in Golden condition


Any contractor knows that you have to start with quality building supplies. As spring football gets underway, the East Carolina football coaches are convinced that they have some of the most solid raw materials they have had in years.

The primary reason they’re starting with such a foundation in place, the coaches say, is strength and conditioning coach Mike Golden.

Golden, the former strength coach at the University of Connecticut, joined the program last May, so he has just finished his first offseason with the Pirate players. He is intense and disciplined, and he has toiled to develop not only strength and endurance but also mental toughness in the team.

“I just look at the strength results, and right now it’s impressive. It’s impressive, the gains a lot of these players have made,” Holtz said. “You hear people say it all the time, that he’s one of your assistant coaches, and he may be the most important one. You talk about having a direct impact on your football team, that strength coach is as important as anybody you have on your staff.”

“We made up a lot of ground with Mike Golden,” defensive coordinator Greg Hudson said.

Golden’s influence has also helped ramp up the intensity of the spring workouts that started last week, Hudson said. New as they were last year, the coaches were a bit tentative as they got acquainted with their new players. This spring, thanks to Golden’s efforts and a unity forged through one season together, the players have faced high expectations from the start.

“The task at hand is to get the players to perform at a much higher level,” Hudson said. “Last year they thought we were pushing the envelope, but I would categorize last year we were being pretty nice. We were being fair, and now a fair is where you buy a pig in the summer.”

So even if spring comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, the ECU coaches hope the Pirates will come into spring workouts like lions and leave like even fiercer lions. Most of them don’t have to learn a new system like they did last year, and the two victories at the end of the season let them taste success as all of the pieces of the new schemes started to lock into place.

“Defensively, the light had gone on during the second half of the season, even though the results weren’t there,” Hudson said.

Physical conditioning is a key component of preparing a team for spring and then fall, but NCAA rules changes about offseason meetings also allowed the coaches to meet with their players to talk about schemes. Those meetings are helping as Hudson and his counterparts try to plug the best two players at each position into the preseason depth chart that they hope to release after the first full scrimmage on March 24.

Particularly on defense, many of the athletes are being groomed to fill in several different positions on the field.

But one offensive area where further evaluation will be needed this spring is quarterback, where James Pinkney seems to have locked up the starting job but three of his teammates — Rob Kass, Brett Clay and Patrick Pinkney — are stacked up at No. 2.

“They’re all going to get a lot of reps, they’re all going to be in a battle, and at the end it’s going to be who does the best job putting the football team in the end zone,” Holtz said.

A few of the Pirates who are expected to be impact players in the fall are being forced to sit out spring practice with healing injuries, especially defensive end Marcus Hands and linebacker Pierre Bell.

The injuries keep the coaches from seeing the big picture at times, Hudson said, but they open the door for younger players to make an impression.

“It allows us to force feed and develop some other guys,” he said.

And in position shifts that were decided before spring practice even began, Davon Drew is moving from quarterback to tight end, Patrick Dosh and Kort Shankweiler are both trying their hands at fullback, and Jerek Hewett, a natural cornerback who moved to wide receiver last season, is going back to the secondary.

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02/23/2007 01:12:52 AM

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