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Insights and Observations

Henry's Highlights
Monday, March 13, 2006

By Henry Hinton

Football working with some substance in '06


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What a difference a year makes. As Skip Holtz and his team work through spring drills there is renewed excitement at East Carolina about the direction of the football program.

After a sometimes impressive 5-6 first year under Holtz, the program is showing signs of a rebirth.

Holtz has a lot to be excited about as he looks to his second year at the helm of a team that was in real trouble a year ago. Working without a quarterback who had taken a snap in a Division 1 game during last year’s spring practice created a concern that eventually went away with the reinstatement of James Pinkney in August.

That issue is settled this time around as Pinkney returns for his senior season. In fact all skill positions seem to be in fairly good shape, allowing Holtz and his staff a chance to focus on other areas that need a great deal of attention.

One of the issues at hand revolves around replacing all of the departed linebackers. Losing two stalwarts like Chris Moore and Richard Koonce has created holes that are getting a lot of attention this spring.

“I continue to be impressed with the progress of our three mid-year additions at linebacker (Orlando Farrow, Danny Muhwezi, Fred Wilson),” Holtz stated recently. "They have come into camp ready to play. What’s nice about that is that it creates a lot of depth at that position where perhaps many of the younger guys can really make an impact on special teams and get additional experience there.”

On the offensive side of the ball, Holtz has huge concerns about several positions. Replacing graduates Shawn Levesque and Sean Harmon has created the need for Holtz and new tight ends coach Donnie Yanowski to get creative.

Former quarterback Devon Drew has accepted a transfer to that spot and has been impressive so far. Now at 6-4, 242, Drew spent the winter conditioning sessions preparing for the move.

Drew is battling for the starting spot with junior walk-on Stanley Bryant (6-5, 254), junior Jay Sonnhalter (6-5, 246) and red-shirt freshman walk-on Martin Tanski (6-3, 231).

The center position has Holtz pulling out some hair this spring. Early on the head coach has watched the ball hit the ground enough during the quarterback-center exchange that it has created some significant concern.

“This is something we’ll continue to address each day until we find the right personnel or combination," said Holtz. “I know it’s still awful early but it is something we need to get rectified pretty quickly."

After the sixth day of workouts on Thursday, Holtz seemed cautiously optimistic that the squad is showing some positive signs.

"Although we weren't as sharp the last two days as we were during the first four practices, I remain pleased with the leadership and on-the-field coaching our seniors have provided," Holtz said. "Every senior class has its own identity and I'm confident that they will
continue to take ownership of this team."

The first full intra-squad scrimmage is scheduled for 8 pm Friday, Mar. 24, at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and will be part of a regional Pirate Club event earlier that evening. "Party with the Pirates" is a new concept that will feature dinner, speakers and the scrimmage at 8 p.m.

Registration forms can be downloaded at Reservations and advance payment are due by March 13.

West Coast spanking

After an optimistic start to its season, East Carolina’s baseball team took its 12-3 record on the road to visit a national powerhouse this weekend as it visited 2004 national champ Cal State-Fullerton, a team currently in everyone’s Top 10.

The first road trip of the year was a tough one as ECU was beaten handily in all three games as Cal State swept the Pirates 5-0, 8-0 and 8-1.

Only a Sunday sixth inning home run by Adam Witter kept the Pirates from being shut out for the entire weekend.

After the game head Coach Billy Godwin was understandably concerned but searching for the silver lining.

“There were some good things”, said Godwin. “Obviously I’m not too happy about just four hits today but this was a good experience for our guys though. In just two weeks we have to go and play at Rice so maybe this trip will help us prepare for that.”

“We’re going to get back out there Tuesday and work hard and get ready for Wilmington on Wednesday,” said Godwin.

ECU will play at UNC-Wilmington at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night and then return home for a three-game weekend series with Marist.

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This page updated 04/21/08 07:02 PM.

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