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I got the surprise of my life when people were complaining about a DR editorial. You mean the BYH column is not the...

Montgomery tackling ECU depth issues

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ECU's James Summers fake a hand off to ECU's Shawn Furlow during ECU vs UCONN football game at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, October 29

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Friday, January 13, 2017

Despite a promising 2-0 start, when East Carolina’s football season began to spin off course, it never made it back onto the road in a 3-9 finish.

Following most of the losses last year, there was discussion of those games’ fine details that often made the biggest difference for ECU. Offensive miscues, defensive lapses and special teams gaffes changed the course of many of the team’s final 10 games, nine of which the Pirates lost.

But second-year ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery thinks those fine lines actually represented a much greater disparity between the Pirates and the teams that bested them. More than a month into the offseason, the head coach has done his evaluations of staff and player personnel and is bent on addressing not only the turnovers that plagued the team in 2016, but the lack of depth at many positions.

“We had to use up a lot of people a lot,” Montgomery said of the season, noting that he rode heavily his most talented players, many of whom are now gone. “Our depth was a consistent issue. It wasn’t necessarily connected to our schedule. I just thought we called on a lot of people on a lot of plays. We went back through and looked at the amount of plays this receiver had to play or this defensive back had to play and watched the wear and tear on some of the positions in our defensive front and offensive front because of the numbers, no question about it.”

As he devises a new blueprint for a new season, Montgomery considered countless angles and assessed his own team by comparing it with others.

Perhaps evidence of his vision for much bigger things, the ECU coach weighed his team’s depth concerns against the nation’s elite.

“As the year wore on, I looked at that in comparison to the way that other teams, especially the four teams that were playing in the College Football Playoff, how many people they were able to play, how many people they had that were scholarship numbers from the get-go,” Montgomery said. “I think that we’ve got really good players. I don’t doubt that but I think that we called on a few people too many times.”

Too often last season, fumbles or big busts against the ECU defense turned games. Still, Montgomery insisted the fine lines were not so fine in many cases.

“That’s no different than the guy that you see running suicides (sprints) who touches the line and the guy doesn’t touch the line. It seems like it’s close but really it’s not,” Montgomery said in comparison. “People like to say we’re close, we’re close, we’re close. The truth of the matter is that if you touch the line every single time, you won’t be close, you’ll be successful. You will achieve.”

The mistakes, the coach said, are the difference between a close game and not.

“A game is close where there are no turnovers on either side of the ball and there is 300 yards of offense on one side and 300 yards of offense on the other side, and you lose by three or by a touchdown or even 10 points,” Montgomery said. “The mistakes that we made in those games were a critical factor. The best thing about them is we’re able to single them out and see what those mistakes were.

“I remind our coaches that the game against N.C. State (a 33-30 ECU win on Sept. 10) could have gone either way. Our guys play hard and they understand our scheme more and more. But we still have to grow and we will change and do some things differently.”  

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

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