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At some schools there are just two seasons. There is football season and
spring football season.
That’s not necessarily the case at East Carolina, but you get the idea.
Spring football kicked off at ECU this past Friday. The Pirates carry
the momentum of
a bowl victory and
a 10-win season into this official kickoff for
the 2014 campaign.
“It’s a time of the year for me that goes back to training,” said Pirate
head coach Ruffin McNeill at his press conference before the opening day
of spring drills [Replay
press conference audio...]. “Spring ball is for
fundamental development. That’s where you get the chance to develop the
core of your team’s toolbox.
"I think we do a good job, aggressively, each year and the kids are
grasping that and doing a good job on their own.”
The Pirates will basically work out every other day leading up to the
spring game on April 12th. The spring game is the centerpiece for the
annual “Great Pirate Purple-Gold Pigskin Pigout Party.”
Think back to last year with all of the injuries and other things that
depleted the team at wide receiver. The reserve players the Pirates
started to refine last spring paid huge dividends in the 2013 season.
“The whole goal of spring football is to develop depth,” explained
McNeill. “And not just depth, but competitive depth. I think we saw that
last year when someone was banged up or nicked or subbed and we had guys
who could step in and rise to the occasion.”
Developing depth while protecting the starters is certainly the key to a
“Lincoln Riley (offensive coordinator) and Rick (Smith, defensive
coordinator) do a really good job of sharing reps,” said McNeill. “I’m
looking forward to that competition. When I talk about depth, it’s
competitive depth. I’m glad we have a guy like Breon Allen back who has
experience, but at the same time, competitive depth means you can’t
sleep on your laurels or what you did last year.
"None of those touchdowns or
tackles carries over from last year. If Player B can push Player A, then
Player A will be better, and then Player A knows he can’t let up because
Player B will take his spot. We’ll be able to blend those reps at all
McNeill says one of the key areas to emphasize this spring is on the
“This year, offensive line-wise, we’ll be down to eight guys,” said
McNeill. “But the positive side is that we’ll get some young players the
chance to get a lot of attention.”
McNeill is having a busy spring. Besides the start of practice, the
fifth-year skipper has responsibilities on the Pirate club speaking
tour. He was also the guest speaker at Friday night’s “Pirate Treasure
Night,” which raised money for Riley’s Army.
Riley’s Army is a cancer support group that helps children and their
families as they battle cancer. The “Pirate Treasure Night” featured a
silent auction and a reverse raffle. I was privileged to be the emcee
and I got a chance to introduce Coach Ruff.
The event was a huge success.
McNeill had the room in the palm of his hand. He talked about how
important the group was.
He also took time out to quote one of his own former players.
“This group is selfishly-unselfish,” said McNeill. “That’s a word I
learned from (former Pirate) Zico Pasut. He called last year’s team
‘selfishly-unselfish.’ He was right and that’s where the success of the
team came from. I’ll never forget that term, ‘selfishly- unselfish.’
The term could go for Coach Ruff and his personal time. He is certainly
The coach is trying to get a 25th hour out of most days.