TAKE ON PIRATE SPORTS
Tuesday, August 10,
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Much has been made about
this Texas Tech offense that Ruffin McNeill brought with him from
Sometimes we forget that
Coach McNeill has made his name on defense.
It’s been his job to try
and stop the high-flying attack at practice each day over the last ten
Now McNeill is the head
coach. He’s brought in young offensive whiz Lincoln Riley to put points
on the board.
Brian Mitchell is the guy
that McNeill selected to guide his young defense.
This is a crowd that isn’t
planning on playing second fiddle.
“We are going to dictate
tempo, just like they are on offense,” said Mitchell at Media Day last
Saturday. “We will not be that bend and react type of defense. We are
going to blitz when we need to blitz and we’re going to play base when
we need to play base.
"The trick is making the
blitz look like base and the base look like blitz.”
It’s well documented that
the Pirates lost a ton on the defensive line. Linval Joseph is now a New
York Giant. C.J. Wilson is a Green Bay Packer. Scottie Robinson and Jay
Ross were also key contributors.
“People say we are short
on experience because we had those gentlemen who were here so long. I
just watched the North Carolina film (from last season) and I’m seeing
Josh Smith and Antonio Allison and Marke Powell get some game
experience. What you’re asking from those guys is to be sound
fundamentally, and we’ll get them caught up with experience.”
Junior Steve Spence played
side by side with that former line. He knows they will be missed, but he
also likes the players that return.
“Obviously they (last
year’s defensive lineman) were a huge part of the success we had these
past couple of years. That force up front allowed our linebackers to
have free gaps and opens spaces. Those offensive linemen weren’t getting
to the second level. Our new guys have talent. They may not have that
same size yet, but they are great players. With the skills that they
have and the sets that we have implemented, they are going to make some
plays for sure.”
The returning Pirate
players really haven’t changed their theme this season. This is the same
East Carolina program that won back to back Conference USA Championships
on the merit of the team’s defense more than anything else.
Spence, a linebacker, says
that mentality will continue.
“In the past couple of
years our defense has been the big brother on the team,” said Spence.
“We will continue to try and do that this year.”
“The challenge is big for
all of us," Spence acknowledged. "It’s not like the new guys are coming
into the same system that we are all used to. It’s a brand new system
for all of us.
"Think about it. Think
about how great it will be in doing something no one else has ever done.
We will have to take a scheme that we have known less than a year. Just
think about what that will feel like when we win that third championship
in a row.”
A third title in a row is
a tall order. But Spence’s defensive coordinator really likes the
players he’s working with.
“I told my guys yesterday
that this was the most talented team that I’ve ever been a part of
defensively,” said Mitchell. "That’s 16 years and I’ve been a part of
some really good defenses. From top to bottom, from the first guy to the
last guy, we are very talented.”
Spence notes that early
success will require intense preparations.
“We have a ways to go,"
Spence said. "We have to continue to put all of our tools in the
toolbox. We can’t just go out there with a couple of weapons. In order
for us to be great, we’re going to utilize every day of practice in this
camp so we can get better and then go out there and beat Tulsa.”
The Pirates open the
season at home against the Golden Hurricane on Sunday, Sept. 5, in front
of the ESPN2 cameras.
In the meantime, the
preparations continue in earnest. First up is the first of the summer
scrimmages this coming Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
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08/10/2010 03:03 AM