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Bless your heart to the ECU football team. You played with the fundamentals that I spoke of earlier, and you won. Keep...

ECU backfield breakdown

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Derrell Scott, running with the ball during the spring at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, and Tyshon Dye have emerged during preseason camp as the Pirates' lead running backs.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, August 12, 2017

With transfer players set to fill starting spots and four of nine assistant coaches in their first season at East Carolina, preseason camp is an important time for the Pirates to mesh as they prepare to host James Madison on Sept. 2.

Second-year head coach Scottie Montgomery has made that clear with routinely talking about the importance of team chemistry in August, especially for the players.

But according to first-year running backs coach Jason Nichols, the coaching staff is mainly past the getting-to-know-each-other phase.

“Honestly the most important part (for that) was the spring, because we got to learn the system and the players and learn the environment, if it’s something new,” said Nichols, who unlike the other rookies on the staff is a 1998 graduate of ECU and still ranks fourth in Pirate history in all-time receptions. “That was one part where I already kind of knew what Greenville was about, but I think the spring was more important because at least now, we’ve learned about the players and what they can do and we’ll continue to learn more about them in the fall because we’ll spend a little more time with them.”

Nichols signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League immediately after his Pirate career and later played in the Arena Football League before his first coaching job as a graduate assistant at ECU in the spring of 2001. He took his first full-time job later in 2001 as wide receivers coach at Sacred Heart.

Now back with the Pirates, he is in charge of a running backs group that is without its top two rushers from last season but could be oozing with potential in large part because of Clemson graduate transfer Tyshon Dye. He and Derrell Scott, who didn’t register a carry a year ago after transferring from Tennessee but is leaner now and looks to be more explosive, have emerged during camp and it is mainly a two-man battle for the starting spot.

“I’m loving it and I think the fans are great and teammates are great, and they made me feel at home from Day 1,” said Dye, whose final action at Clemson in 2016 was five carries for 23 yards against rival South Carolina before he was with the Tigers en route to winning the national championship. “I just came in and worked all summer with them. It was a little different feel with the conditioning aspect, but my teammates helped me through the process and to get to camp. Now I’m just trying to continue to work with the rest of the guys.”

James Summers was a senior a year ago when he rushed for a team-high 869 yards. Anthony Scott was on track to be the leading returner rusher from last season with 384 yards, but he was ruled academically ineligible for this season.

There is excitement surrounding the size of true freshmen Darius Pinnix (6-0, 225) and Trace Christian (6-0, 220), but their fate for this year will ultimately depend on whether they are redshirted or earn immediate playing time. Today’s initial scrimmage of camp could help shed light on roles behind Scott and Dye.

“Where we are really doing well on offense is with the passing game and also the perimeter run game with Derrell and Ty,” Montgomery said. “We are going to go get 3- and 4-yard gains, which I really like. Last year, we had way too many tackles for losses thrown in there against our offense.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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