Bonesville: The Authoritative Independent Voice of East Carolina
Daily News & Features from East Carolina, Conference USA and Beyond

Mobile Alpha Roundup Daily Beat Recruiting The Seasons Multimedia Historical Data Pirate Time Machine SportByte™ Weather



Put your ad message in front of 1,000's and 1,000's of Pirate fans. Call 252.355.8822 for flexible options & rates.




The Bradsher Beat
Friday, December 22, 2006

By Bethany Bradsher

Veteran defensive backs primed for test

All rights reserved.

The East Carolina secondary unit will have some things working in its favor at Legion Field on Saturday: four mature senior starters, an excellent track record during the regular season and one of the most seasoned position coaches in the country.

As they hold down the backfield against South Florida, the Pirates will need to use each one of those tools to combat Matt Grothe, the freshman jack-of-all-trades quarterback who leads the Bulls in rushing with 607 yards and passing with 2,495 yards.

Grothe has carried the ball 171 times this season, ECU secondary coach Rick Smith said, making him the team’s most prolific tailback as well as its quarterback. But the area of greatest concern for Smith comes from the skyscrapers who are the Bulls’ wide receivers.

“Their receivers are extremely tall,” said Smith, who has been coaching at the college level for 23 years at schools like Georgia Tech, Kentucky and Cincinnati. “Travis Williams is 5-10, he’ll be playing against a guy that’s 6-3. The three starting receivers are 6-3, 6-5, 6-3.

"Their receivers are taller than their tight ends.”

With so many offensive weapons — a quarterback who can move the ball by air or ground and receivers who tower above some of their defenders — the ECU unit will still approach the matchup with confidence because of Grothe’s youth, their experience and the difficult atmosphere the Pirate defense can create for opposing offenses.

“We talk a lot out there,” said junior cornerback Travis Williams. “I think we can get into his head a little bit, just talking trash to him, just hitting him every play.”

Smith has so much confidence in the secondary that he has allowed his three senior safeties — Pierre Parker, Kyle Chase and Jamar Flournoy — to rotate themselves in and out during a game.

The trio has done such a good job with that responsibility that they each has around 500 plays under his belt in the regular season, Smith said.

“You shake them up, they’re just good players,” Smith said. “I’ve enjoyed them. They like each other. And they understand their role, and their role is no long runs and no long passes.”

One of Smith’s philosophies is that a defense should do everything possible to limit its opponents’ runs to under 10 yards per carry and passes to under 25 yards per reception. When Grothe — who has 25 touchdowns on his own this year — looks for the explosion play, Smith’s protégés have been coached to plug up every hole to keep that explosion from happening.

With a scrambling quarterback like Grothe, cornerback Kasey Ross said, the challenge is in staying with your man through the end of the play, because there’s always a chance that a receiver can break away and connect with a quarterback who is operating on the run.

“The big thing with him is, you’ve got to stay on your man and get pressure up front to get him on the ground,” said Ross, who has been on the field the most in the Pirate secondary this season, with nearly 800 plays.

Flournoy, an Alabama native who expects to have a cheering section of about 60 at Saturday’s game, said that he and the other seniors plan to enjoy the bowl experience, but also to take their role as leaders seriously. Unlike the younger players who can just go down and enjoy the events surrounding the game, Flournoy knows that he needs to help set the stage for a victory.

To prove his suitability for that motivator role, Flournoy started by addressing the media reports about Grothe and his offensive fireworks. This Pirates defense, he said, is ready for anything South Florida might dish out.

“We’ve heard a lot of things about them, but it’s nothing spectacular that we can’t handle,” he said. “There’s nothing they’ve got that we haven’t seen all year.”

Send an e-mail message to Bethany Bradsher.

Click here to dig into Bethany Bradsher's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 01:13:31 AM

©2001-2002-2003-2004-2005-2006-2007-2008-2009-2010-2011-2012-2013 All rights reserved.
Articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files and other content originated on this site are the proprietary property of
None of the articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files or other content originated on this site may be reproduced without written permission.
This site is not affiliated with East Carolina University. View's Privacy Policy. Advertising contact: 252-349-3280; Editorial contact:; 252-444-1905.