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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, August 7, 2012

By Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey

Positions at stake as players learn T.B.A.

By Brian Bailey
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I’ve always thought it is odd that “Media Day” for college football programs is always held so close to the start of practice. It would be better served if the day came later in camp, because many more questions about lineups could be better answered.

It’s still a great chance to learn about the ‘new’ team, but a good camp will decide at a number of positions who gets to start come September.

I’ve often written over the years that East Carolina is a better team and a better program when it has a chip on its shoulder. I believe this team has a huge chip this year, and it starts on offense.

“We’re pissed,” said Pirate offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley during media day. “As a coaching staff and as an offense we’re pissed and ready to put last year behind us. We didn’t have near the numbers that we want, and we certainly turned the ball over way too much. So I would certainly say we have a chip.”

Riley has one big decision to make early on at quarterback. He says that decision doesn’t really worry him all that much.

“I would be concerned if I didn’t think we had anyone in camp that could lead this offense,” he explained. “I think we can win with all four of these quarterbacks, though.”

The plan is to play all four — Shane Carden, Rio Johnson, Brad Wornick and Cody Keith — in the first scrimmage and then select two from that group to battle for the top spot.

I’d say Carden and Johnson will be the two to move up before the second scrimmage.

"There is competition there and we like that group,” said third year head coach Ruffin McNeill in his state of the program address. “All four of those guys did a great job in the off-season of leading. They've all been exposed to what we want offensively. Lincoln has devised the reps and has a plan to evaluate each guy, each day during the practice sessions in different group drills. The guy that makes the best decisions, that moves the ball and our football team — that will be the guy that we choose."

ECU had a relatively clean first practice on Friday. Saturday morning’s second workout was a little sloppy late, and Coach McNeill had to get on some of the players. Most of that was just from the heat and humidity. The Pirates are practicing early this summer for the most part, but they are still getting their fair share of the ‘dog days.’

McNeill has stressed to his team not to confuse activity with achievement. He says sometimes players think they have done something by just being at practice. McNeill told the group that every team is practicing, that his Pirates need to work hard to achieve something during that practice.

He also preached on T.B.A. Trust, belief and accountability are the building blocks for his program.

"We started back in the spring with a thought process of what we wanted as a football program,” said McNeill. “We want to continue to develop depth and competition at all positions. We want to have a tough mentality, the intangibles of no entitlement with a lot of team work, which I have seen a lot of. We talked about the initials T.B.A. and we want to keep developing those things."

Saturday’s first scrimmage is an important one for many of the players fighting for positions. McNeill and the coaching staff have to form this roster, and then begin working on the 2012 schedule, starting with Appalachian State.

Associate head coach John Wiley spent 19 years with Appalachian State, winning a trio of FCS national championships. He knows firsthand what kind of attitude the Mountaineers will bring to Greenville.

“They’ll be telling their players just what we used to tell them, that we’re planning on winning the football game," said Wiley. "They’ll have them fired up, telling them that the ‘big boys’ didn’t recruit them because they didn’t think they were good enough, etc. We played at least one of these games every year, and the players loved them. We have to be ready for a big fight when they come here on September 1st.”

That opening game is so close, but so far away. There is plenty of work to get done in the Pirate camp leading up to that opener.


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08/07/2012 03:56 AM


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