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It's certainly another definitive step on the way to the
football season. East Carolina hosted media day on Saturday.
There was added interest from a couple of hours north,
with Old Dominion coming to town to kick things off on August 31st.
“We’re excited to be here,“ said Pirate Coach Ruffin
McNeill. “Each year for us, and me personally, and I know I speak for
all of our coaches, when I say how exciting it is to start each season,
how exciting it is to get around your kids, to get around your players.
For me, it’s getting around our coaches as well in our staff meetings
and preparing for the season.”
Coach McNeill is armed with a new contract extension, a
veteran staff that he continues to get more and more comfortable with, a
strong list of returning players and experience at the quarterback
position. Add all of these ingredients and mix and you understand why
East Carolina is the preseason pick to win the Conference USA East
“It’s always been expected here,“ said McNeill. “Even
when I go back to my playing days, when I was 18, 19 years old, it was
expected to win here at East Carolina. When I came in as head coach,
because of the success from before, the bar was always high. I think
that’s why the players have chosen to come here. They come into Dowdy-Ficklen
and they see it packed every weekend and they understand the excitement
generated from our entire athletic program, not just football.
Expectations have always been high.”
For the Pirates to fulfill those expectations, they’ll
have to be much better on defense. McNeill replaced Brian Mitchell as
defensive coordinator with former ECU assistant Rick Smith.
Smith’s favorite saying is: “Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift.”
The history is that the ECU defense has really struggled.
There has been some improvement over the last couple of years, but it
wasn’t that long ago that East Carolina was dead last in the nation in
“This defense will be our scheme,” said Smith when asked
about his transition with the coaching staff at East Carolina. “We will
take ideas from all of our coaches on defense and work together to make
it successful. This certainly isn’t Rick Smith’s defense.”
Jeremy Grove says there are some definite differences on
“D” this season.
“I think guys really have a pride in this defense and we
know we have to be better this year,” said Grove. “I think guys really
are buying into what Coach Smith is saying. He’s tough but I think guys
are really into what he is saying.”
That defense will be tested in week one when Old Dominion
plays the school’s first ever game against an FBS opponent. The Monarchs
are known for a high-scoring attack, led by their fine quarterback
At East Carolina, the Pirates have their own hotshot
quarterback in returning starter Shane Carden.
Carden made the trip to Texas for the Conference USA
media day last week, and he’s ready to get things going, guns blazing,
“I like this team’s work ethic,” said Carden. “We come to
work and we really like the tempo of the offense.”
Carden is a much different player than he was exactly a
year ago. He wasn’t the Pirate starting quarterback to begin 2012. He
was disappointed when he wasn’t named, but he finally got his chance and
has never looked back.
“I like the feeling that I have with this experience,”
said Carden. “I know what my body feels like in camp and that I have to
work through it. I know so much more than I did a year ago.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s comforting,” said Riley. “There’s
always things that can happen. I do, though, like his feel for the
offense. And I like our quarterback depth this year.”
Radio kicks Off next week
The Brian Bailey Show returns on Pirate Radio 1250 and
930 next Monday night.
My first show will include a couple of guys with ties to
Old Dominion that have meant so much in my career.
Back in 1984, as a senior at Old Dominion University, I
interned at WAVY-TV, the NBC affiliate in the Hampton Roads area.
I worked on the sports staff at WAVY under John
Castleberry and Bruce Rader.
Castleberry is a former sports director at WITN-TV in the
Greenville-Washington-New Bern market. Castleberry is also a former
“Voice of the Monarchs.“
Rader is a legend as the sports director at WAVY and
covers ODU football.
It should be a great way to kick off another season on