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Veteran linemen set to lead offense


East Carolina offensive lineman Christian Matau (73) practices snapping the ball during ECU football practice on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016. (Abbey Mercando/The Daily Reflector)


By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

J.T. Boyd is at the point in his career that he can bust his teammates’ chops when he wants, and can even have a little fun during times of the year that aren’t fun for most of the other guys.

Boyd is a senior in his fifth year on the East Carolina football team, so he has earned the razzing he gives out, even when it’s to a guy as big as he is like 308-pound junior Christian Matau.

The man who spends a good deal of his time standing to Boyd’s left on the East Carolina offensive line — Boyd is the starting right guard and Matau the starting center — was once again to his left at the end of a post-practice interview.

Matau talked about his steadfast long-term recovery from injuries early in his career, and said things have gone very well since then. At the end, Boyd chimed in, “Now it’s his weight that’s an issue.”

“You’ve definitely got to have thick skin, especially around me because I’m joking on everybody,” said the 6-foot-4, 306-pound Boyd, who enters his final collegiate season with 23 starts to his credit. “But if you’re going to give it, you’ve got to be able to take it, and they do a good job of getting me back.”

On the field, it has been more about business for the Pirate offensive front, which hopes to maintain its steady starting five of Boyd, Matau, sophomore Messiah Rice at left tackle, sophomore Garrett McGhin at left guard and junior Brandon Smith at right tackle.

A more run-heavy approach by first-year head coach Scottie Montgomery and coordinator Tony Petersen has meant some adjustments, but Boyd said confidence is soaring.

“I think it’s growing every day, and every day we’re putting more and more explosive plays together,” Boyd said. “That just builds confidence from the young guys on up.”

The Pirates’ first scrimmage of August camp was one for the preseason offensive record books as ECU ran roughshod over its defensive counterparts. But it was the second scrimmage, the one in which the Pirate defense responded with a strong showing in the early going, that sticks out in Boyd’s mind.

Penalties, specifically those committed by the line, squelched much of the early offensive progress.

“We saw how we handled adversity,” Boyd said. “We started very slow, and some of that was my fault. I had a false start, and we handled adversity and and we definitely came back stronger than the way we started. It was good to see that because every game, that’s going to happen.”

Matau was again limited by an injury last season, but nonetheless became a fixture with five starts and eight game appearances.

The New Bern native said the line has excelled under first-year position coach Geep Wade, and is embracing the idea of being part of a physical run attack.

“The run game is picking up, and coach Wade has done a great job,” Matau said. “It was a little rocky in the spring, but we’re starting to get all of this technique down and I think we’re doing a good job.”


Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 or follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.