Dynamics beyond the sidelines
More Than a Game
Monday, April 18, 2005
By Ron Cherubini
staff may be last, best hope
has assembled a battle-tested coaching staff. ECU's
assistant coaches and years on the sidelines as
full-time college coaches:
Defensive Line/Assistant Head
Offensive Line/Offensive Coordinator
Tight Ends, Special Teams
Greg Hudson, DC,
Director of Operations
Collective Experience: 167 years
Skip Holtz, 18 years
Grand Total of
Experience: 185 years
One week into spring practice
at East Carolina, new head football coach Skip Holtz looked at his offensive
front and commented, "We have work to do on the offensive line… because we
simply don't have a lot of experience and depth there.”
Deeper into the spring,
offensive coordinator and line coach Steve Shankweiler revisited the state
of the men in the trenches.
"We're probably a little
further ahead than what I thought we would be at this point," he said. "I
think that when we get some fundamental things ironed out, that's going to
be a solid group of players. We've made a lot of progress in the 10 days
(we've had at practice)."
The latter comment sounds like
a coach who is seeing the progress he expects to see from a group of guys
Two years ago, we all heard a
lot of comments about how great the talent was at ECU. Last year, we heard
that after the first scrimmage, our line was going to be fine with our two
returning 1,000 yard running backs.
There is an old adage in the
journalism game that goes, 'Check your source.'
Now, I know these guys have
yet to coach this team in a game, but for some reason, I feel a whole lot
better about the source on this one.
It has long been held that
with age comes experience and with experience comes wisdom.
And with wisdom, comes sound
Where the previous staff was
obviously lacking collective experience, Holtz’s staff, by sharp contrast,
is pretty darn long in the tooth. Collectively, the Pirates staff has a
combined 185 years of sideline coaching. So, when I hear one of the coaches
making a statement about the quality of our offensive line — or any players
for that matter — I give him the benefit of the doubt.
Even greater than the combined
experience, this staff, I believe, will truly be greater than the sum of its
parts. Its diversity in regards to the program’s needs is astounding.
On paper, this staff is
everything a Pirate fan could have dreamed of. Consider that on staff we
have seven former coordinators: Holtz, Donnie Thompson, Greg Hudson, Steve
Shankweiler, Steve Smith, Rock Roggeman, Donnie Kirkpatrick.
There are also the ECU ties
(Thompson, Shankweiler, Junior Smith, Harold Robinson, and Mark Yellock).
Then, there is a shift in prioritization within the program. Academic
adherence is a now a focus again, the high school coaches in North Carolina
are now back onboard, and the players in the program are embracing the new
In prepping for the upcoming
2005 edition of Bonesville Magazine, I have spoken to all of the incoming
new Pirates, all of whom shared some of the commentary they were hearing
from the ECU players during their respective official visits. Some very
common themes are emanating from the players in the program who were saying
things like, “The new coaches take academics seriously;” and, “The new
coaches say we are going to be hitting this spring;” and, “We love the new
coaches, they work so hard.”
As ECU Hall of Famer Dr. Henry
Van Sant always believed, "The speed of the leader is the speed of the
pack." This bunch of old lions, under Holtz, has come to run well in front
of the pack and the players in the program have picked up on it. The work
ethic has been ratcheted up a notch and there is urgency once again in the
Then, of course, there is the
“Lou” factor. One has to think that having dad in his corner won’t hurt
Skip’s prospects for success. Coach Holtz freely stated that when you have a
resource like his father, you pick the phone up from time to time. This may
turn out to be a lifeline the Pirates benefit from every once in awhile.
One of his dad’s legendary
quotes goes like this: “It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability
to discover ability in others is the true test.”
I have never been one to
believe that the talent is so depleted in the program that one and two wins,
respectively, was all this team could muster against moderate schedules. I
believe that the ability to discover abilities in others, as Lou pointed
out, was sorely lacking. Should Holtz and his staff have the judgment that
is commiserate with the years this staff has put in collectively, the ECU
football program may be pulling back from the abyss into which it has been
staring for the past two, long, agonizing seasons.
And make no mistakes, we are
at the abyss. No matter how you slice it, this season may really be the fork
in the road where if we take the wrong spur, we might ride off to an end we
don’t want to see. It certainly won’t be one that has a beautiful sunset. As
far as reclamation projects go, the revival of he ECU program may be one of
the most challenging out there given the stacked deck we face as a program:
the BCS scam, the Chapel Hill-controlled media cartel, the Chapel
Hill-oriented state legislature, a huge endowment gap, and a worthless
Still, ECU has always
controlled its own future through a methodology that is full of
consternation, inspiration, and perspiration. We, the Pirate fans, are an
amazing collection of diverse personalities who are either wise beyond our
years or too stupid to know that we are neither wanted nor deserving of
anything better than being the kid on the other side of the playground
fence. We all believe we will eventually be a perennial Top-10 team, despite
what the pundits say.
Those things — the right
conference, a Top-10 ranking, a championship, a thriving endowment — all
follow success on the field, and success on the field is best left to those
who know how to do it. This staff, certainly, has that type of wisdom.
I am confident that the team
that dons the Pirate colors this year will certainly know the basics —
running, catching, throwing, blocking, tackling. That in itself will make
East Carolina a markedly better program. Beyond that, what I believe this
staff will bring, is consistency of performance. We will win the games in
which we are equally or more talented then our foes and we will pick off
another game or two because that is what good, experienced coaching does.
I predict a team on the field
that will return a little fear into any opponent that visits Dowdy-Ficklen.
With this staff, I am
convinced, the ECU program has given itself the best chance of rapid
success. It’s hard to think of what lies ahead if this seasoned staff cannot
turn things around in Greenville. So, with that said, I find myself
believing it when our coaches say that a certain player is excelling or a
unit is showing marked improvement.
These coaches like what they
are seeing this spring.
So, on this one, I trust the
Send an e-mail message to Ron Cherubini.
Click here to dig into Ron
Cherubini's Bonesville archives.
02/23/2007 02:05:42 PM