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QB battle enters second week

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Thomas Sirk runs a play during practice on August 3, 2017. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

No one but the two of them can know what it is really like, but there is a definite bond between East Carolina quarterbacks Gardner Minshew and Thomas Sirk.

Both of them want what only one of them can have, yet neither seems given to jealously or disdain for the other. As the second week of camp kicked off, second-year head coach Scottie Montgomery called the battle a great one and one of mutual respect.

Technically at least, Minshew, a junior former transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College, is the incumbent. He started the last two games of last season in place of an injured Philip Nelson, both ECU losses. In all last season, Minshew threw for 1,347 yards and eight touchdowns versus four interceptions.

“I love it, man,” Minshew said with a wide grin Tuesday when asked what he thought about competing with Sirk. “It’s great with him. We have a lot of mutual respect. We’re two guys that are both going to show up and we’re going to lead and we’re going to work. That’s one thing I love, and this competition has been fun. It’s bringing out the best in us and it’s really making our team better.”

But Sirk, the newcomer and a graduate transfer from Duke, is the favorite to start in the eyes of many, especially since he was hand-picked by Montgomery to spend his last collegiate season in Greenville. He spent a promising junior season as the Blue Devils’ starter before being derailed by his second Achilles tendon tear prior to his senior season.

With the clock ticking down until the Pirates’ Sept. 2 season kickoff against James Madison, the two QBs are going at it throw for throw and Sirk also seems to enjoy it. Both he and Montgomery acknowledged that Tuesday’s practice had more of a late-camp feeling, complete with a touch of animosity between players.

“I saw guys competing in every drill today, and that’s what we want from an offensive and defensive standpoint and that’s going to make everyone better,” Sirk said. “It’s making our receivers better to get off the (defensive backs’ coverage), and that competition is what you want to see, especially this early in camp.”

As for his competitive relationship with Minshew, Sirk added, “We’re helping each other. We’re trying to make each other better at quarterback and we’re trying to make this team better. There is no hostility between me and Gardner. In the meeting room, if we have tips for each other or pointers out on the field, if I have a question for Gardner that he’s more familiar with in the office, I’m going to ask him.”

Montgomery, who named Minshew his starter in the spring prior to Sirk’s arrival, said he will be patient but decisive with his QB decision. Like most coaches, he favors the idea of one defined starter at the position.

“I’d like to know after seeing maybe two scrimmages,” Montgomery said of his timetable for a naming a starter, noting that his previous relationship as Sirk’s coordinator and position coach at Duke is the reason the QB is in Greenville now for one last season. “I’d like to know what direction we’re going in then, and I’d also like to have those conversations with those guys so it’s clear, and so the team is not left wondering. They’re going to rally behind whoever we pick because of the spirit and the vibe of this team right now.

“We’ll all be able to tell who that guy is by then.”

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

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