From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, August 13, 2013

By Brian Bailey
WNCT-TV 9 Sports Director

Brian Bailey

Pirate defense in the spotlight




By Brian Bailey
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Dominant days on defense have come few and far between over the years at East Carolina.

Yes, it was just a scrimmage and the first one at that. Still, the progress this defense has made under Rick Smith as the new coordinator appears to be very encouraging.

The head Pirate was certainly pleased. Coach Ruffin McNeill knows his defense has to be better. He hopes he’s taken a giant step forward by bringing in Smith. He also knows that the defense usually gets a jump on the guys with the ball to start summer camp.

"The defense is sometimes ahead of the offense in camp and that's to be expected," McNeill said as he addressed the media after the first scrimmage. "Overall, I was pleased with what I saw with that group in their rotations and making plays. There are some substitution things we need to work on, but I thought they executed exactly what Coach Smith wanted to do today."

The Pirate defense held the East Carolina quarterbacks to just 17-of-37 through the air with an interception and a touchdown pass.

ECU starting quarterback Shane Carden threw the touchdown pass late in the scrimmage. Who better to evaluate the Pirate defense then the guy who sees it every day in practice?

“Absolutely they are better,” said Carden. “That defensive line has been getting after it pretty good and those defensive backs have been doing a really good job of hiding the coverage. That’s what I’ve noticed as a quarterback going against them from last spring into this fall camp.”

The main emphasis on defense is better preparation and more hustling and flying around to the football. The team is in the best shape that I’ve seen in years. This squad is strong and fast and hoping to make noise without the football this fall.

“The coaches really want us flying to the football,” said linebacker Derrell Johnson. “They are really stressing that and I think the guys are doing a good job. We know that we can be better on defense.”

Even before he had seen the film, Smith knew that his defense had played well to open the scrimmage season.

“We went 70 plays,” said Rick Smith. “We gave up one touchdown, so you have to feel good about that. We had two fourth down stops and we had a pick. We should have had two more interceptions. I was really pleased with their intensity and how they ran around the ball.”

Smith knows it’s early in camp. He’s a veteran coach serving his second tour of duty at East Carolina. He’d like nothing more than to turn this defense around starting now.

“I told them to enjoy their victory,” Smith added. “But tomorrow we start all over. You either get better every day or you get worse. You never stay the same.”

One of the keys to football in August is for a team to stay healthy. There were some nicks and bruises, but everyone appeared to be okay for Sunday’s practice.

The Pirates will scrimmage again this coming Saturday and then host the annual “Meet the Pirates” night at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Classes start at East Carolina on August 20th. The Pirates will then begin their normal, in season practice schedule the next day on August 21st.

The season opener with Old Dominion is August 31st at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.


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08/13/2013 04:14 AM