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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
By Brian Bailey

Preparations geared to building depth


I’ll admit that I don’t always understand the method to the madness when the Pirates conduct a scrimmage.

Coaches know exactly what they are looking for. Every call, every play in the scrimmage is called for a particular reason. It’s just not easy for many of us to understand what’s going on.

Still, I certainly enjoy watching the players go through game-like conditions. It gives us all a taste of what we’ll get come September 2nd.

I couldn’t believe how nice the weather was on Saturday night as I took in the last half hour of the first scrimmage of the preseason. We’ll be lucky to get that kind of weather on game day before late October.

The East Carolina running backs took advantage of the great conditions, really running hard. Chris Johnson ran as hard as I’ve ever seen him run, especially between the tackles.

"I thought our running backs did a great job today," said Pirate Coach Skip Holtz after the scrimmage. "Chris Johnson broke some big tackles and is looking really good. We were able to run the ball north and south for about 4-5 yards a carry.

"Brandon Fractious and Dominique Lindsay also ran extremely well. Right now we have three good running backs on our two deep and that obviously will make for some good competition."

While the first line starters got in some work, Saturday’s first scrimmage was actually geared more towards the younger players.

"We wanted the second and third teams to get a bunch of work to help us develop our depth chart," said Holtz. “This (last) scrimmage will allow us to get more reps and focus specifically on the first and second teams as we head into next week as well as starting our preparations for Navy."

Coaches say the calendar is often cruel in August. Teams have months to prepare, but rarely will you find any coach who says his team is ready to go in week one.

The Pirates had better be ready to rock early on. This East Carolina team will be better in 2006, but the schedule features eight bowl teams and seven bowl champions, meaning success may be measured in other ways besides wins and losses.

West Virginia was featured in USA Today earlier this week. The Mountaineers could very easily be a Top 5 team when they roll into town in late September.

First things first, of course, and that means the opening two-game road trip through Annapolis and Birmingham. The Pirates will be double-digit underdogs in the first game, and probably a small dog in game two.

From this Pirate’s view, this ECU team is much further along then last year’s version was at this time during the preseason.

“That really doesn’t matter,” said ECU offensive coordinator Steve Shankweiler. “The schedule has changed. It is much more difficult. so we have to be further along. Every team is different.”

Shank realizes that this offense can only go as far as the offensive line takes it. Word is that the front line guys on the line are progressing nicely, but this is a group that can’t afford an injury. Depth will be a concern at several positions, but none more visible then on the O-line.

The Pirates will start to put the game plan in for the Navy game this week. There is another scrimmage this weekend that should again answer some key questions.

It’s certainly an exciting time of the year!
One has to wonder, sometimes, if September 2nd will ever get here. Unless, of course, you are a coach!

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02/23/2007 01:33:58 AM


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