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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, August 8, 2006
By Brian Bailey

Offense and defense, straight from the gurus

With the 2006 football season approaching, WNCT-TV 9 sports director and Bonesville columnist Brian Bailey conducted separate interviews with East Carolina offensive coordinator Steve Shankweiler and his defensive counterpart, Greg Hudson. The interviews with the veteran coaches, presented below in Question and Answer format, elicited some intriguing responses.

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ECU Offensive Coordinator

BAILEY: When the average Pirate fan sits in the stands and looks at this offense, what will he see?

SHANKWEILER: I think what youíll see during the course of the season, and Iím not trying to dodge the question, but youíll see three backs with two tight ends, youíll see three backs with two split ends, youíll see two backs with one tight end because we are going to try and create every possible formation. We do that because it creates certain adjustments that defenses have to make that makes play calling a whole lot easier.

BAILEY: James Pinkney finally gets to work with an offense for a second straight year. Might we see things out of Pinkney that weíve never seen before?

SHANKWEILER: I think you will. Last year we only threw eight interceptions. When you go back and look, the last time East Carolina threw that few of a number of interceptions was during the Pat Dye era when they were running the wishbone. He really had a remarkable year. Just the other day we had a check/audible period that truthfully a year ago he would not have been able to handle. He was able to change some plays at the line for us. It showed me that the consistency in teaching for a second straight year is going to pay big dividends in his senior year.

BAILEY: This team struggled running the football last year, but for this offense to be successful, you have to run the ball. Where does this team stand with the running game?

SHANKWEILER: Last year, as the year went on we got better. We had some games late in the year where we felt like we ran the ball as well as anybody else in the conference. Weíve got to be more consistent at tailback. I think Chris Johnson has so much more confidence with another year in the system. I think the emergence of Dominique Lindsey is a huge plus for us, especially running between the tackles. Thatís something that we lacked early on last year and thatís something that is really his forte. Brandon Fractious is the same kind of player, between the tackles.

Up front, weíve got two guys that have ever lettered on the offensive line. Our issue there is going to be experience. I donít think it is going to be a matter of talent. I think we have as much talent as we had a year ago. Itís just going to be a matter of getting these guys up front some experience.

I think it will be a little bit of a feeling out period to start, as we as coaches try to put the players in situations that they can excel at, both in the backfield and on the offensive line. By the end of the season I think weíll be pretty good at running the football.

BAILEY: Talk about you H-Back spot, where you have your son, Kort, and another former quarterback Pat Dosh on the depth chart. How important is the H-Back in this offense?

SHANKWEILER: When we get in two backs it will be important. Last year we had a solid blocker back there, but we really didnít have a threat in that position to throw to. In order to keep the running game going, you have to throw to someone out of the backfield. This year we think weíve got two guys coming out of the backfield who can make catches. More importantly, we think they can really help us on the perimeter plays with their blocking. Both of those kids run well and they can make you miss in open space, so neither is your traditional fullback. We think we can do more things out of the passing game, and block better on some running plays, utilizing the H-Back.

BAILEY: Aundrae Allison is the obvious star of the receiving corps. How much does his play help the rest of the receivers?

SHANKWEILER: Weíre really excited about the progress of our receivers. They have all played. Theyíve all been together for two summers running the same routes and I really think our receivers will be a big plus this season.

BAILEY: Finally, how good can this offense be in 2006?

SHANKWEILER: I think we can be really good. I looked back at last yearís stats, and we were just a couple of plays away from being among the league leaders. If we can shore up our inexperience early, I think we can be as good as East Carolina has seen in a while.

ECU Defensive Coordinator

BAILEY: When the average Pirate fan sits in the stands, what will he see?

HUDSON: I would say our opponents categorize us as a 4-3, zone coverage defense. Most of the time we are going to have four down lineman, three linebackers and four defensive backs. You will see multiple coverages with adjusting fronts and personnel packages. Itís not quite like the Tampa Bay defense because we donít play as much true cover two. Weíre going to play substitution defense based on what the opponents give us because it is so wide open.

BAILEY: Explain the difference between cover two and cover three in the secondary.

HUDSON: Cover two is where the safeties have the deep half of the field. In our case that would be Pierre Parker and Jamar Flournoy. They get help from the hard corners. They are going to jam the receivers. The outside linebackers are sinking in the curl. The mike linebackers are helping out the safeties. The number one key in that defense is pass rush.

In cover three you take one of those safeties and bring him in as a fourth linebacker. Then you have the field cut up in thirds, with your two corners and your other safety.

BAILEY: What percentage of the time will you call a blitz?

HUDSON: I canít tell you that. (Laugh) From last year, opposing coaches would probably say that we blitzed about ten to twenty percent of the time. Itís probably in the teens and it depends on the type of pressure youíre trying to put on. There are zone pressures, like Pittsburgh in the NFL runs. There are all out man to man blitzes when you bring the house. Itís usually in the teens as far as pressure goes.

BAILEY: Give us a call from the sideline. Itís third and two and you have to get a stop. Whatís the call?

HUDSON: Tight-Gut-Blitz

BAILEY: Thatís it. What does that mean?

HUDSON: They know how to set the front. Whoís coming? Whatís coming? You usually give the defensive line the call first. Then you put the front in, then the stunt, the blitz youíre going to run and then the coverage comes last. Itís all brought in with signals from the sideline.

BAILEY: Compare this defense as you start year two to where it was a year ago.

HUDSON: I saw undersized players that worked hard when I got here. When you have kids that work hard theyíve always got a chance in college football. I would say that we have dramatically changed the look and size of this football team. I was hugging guys during the first practice, telling them how good they looked. Itís all hard work. We had to get a little taller, a little stronger, and a little rangier. Itís almost like a basketball team, because you have to have size, especially down low where they battle. We also had to get more athletic on the perimeter with our linebackers. Not to take anything away from our guys last year, but our schedule has changed and it has changed dramatically.

BAILEY: Who are some of the players that have to stand out for the Pirates to have a great year on defense?

HUDSON: You have to start up front. Brandon Setzer and Mark Robinson have to step up. Dontre Brown and J-Ross have to play well. You equate that to baseball because you have to be strong up the middle in baseball. Thatís the same way it is in football. Pierre Bell and Durwin Lamb have to play well up the middle. Our defensive backs have to excel. We can put some guys around them that can play, but we have play well in the middle.

BAILEY: Finally, Navy is known for the option game. How will you defend that attack in the opener on September 2nd?

HUDSON: They run a tremendous option. Then they hit you with a play-action pass. Rice helped us last year, because we only had a week to prepare for that option. Having (assistant coach) Rick Smith in this program is invaluable. Heís had thirty plus years of experience and heís defended the option in so many different ways. I think that is one of the reasons we played so well against Rice last year. Weíve watched a lot of film on the Navy option this summer. Weíve also talked to a lot of high school coaches this summer, because many of them see the option three or four times during a season. Weíve looked at every different way to prepare for it. Weíll be sound and our kids will play hard. The challenge will be to take our conventional defense. We are preparing for two seasons right now. We have to sink Navy and then play the rest of our schedule. In the long run itís going to help us. As much as I hate it, itís going to be a blessing in disguise.

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02/23/2007 01:33:57 AM

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