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ECU defense aims for future

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East Carolina defensive coordinator Robert Prunty congratulates players as they come to the sideline against Virginia Tech on Saturday in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, October 12, 2017

It is a difficult situation for every member of the East Carolina football team’s defense.

The Pirates are 1-5 at the season’s midpoint, and a defense largely at the root of those losses is making some tough decisions between the present and the future. The mounting losses have meant more playing time for the team’s young players in hopes of creating valuable future depth.

But there is also hope that playing more and more underclassmen will ignite the sort of unified rally within the entire defense to make the now count again, possibly inspiring the upperclassmen to go out with a bang.

“I hope it does because I’m trying to send a message, I really am,” said Robert Prunty, the team’s former defensive line coach who was promoted to defensive coordinator following the team’s second loss at West Virginia.

In addition to a regular jumble on the front four and in the secondary, last week even leading tackler Jordan Williams, a senior, did not start at his usual inside linebacker post despite being healthy enough to play.

In his place, Prunty got just the kind of performance he hoped from starting redshirt freshman Aaron Ramseur, who logged a team-high 11 stops and made his first career interception. The hope is that those performances will start coming from all defenders young and old.

“I hope that becomes contagious. We need fresh blood and you’re going to see a lot more,” Prunty said, noting among the positives that ECU is giving up far fewer long run plays than it did early in the season. “We’re going to play guys and get them ready because we need depth and you can clearly see it.”

Already, Ramseur and young talent like interior lineman Raequan Purvis have seen substantial time, and Prunty said true freshmen like safety Tank Robinson and lineman Ja’Quane Nelson are likely to see their roles expand quickly. Robinson played considerable time last week and Prunty said Nelson will be traveling with the team this weekend to Central Florida.

“I really want to get this thing going. It ain’t been a lot of fun,” Prunty said, noting that this week’s announcement of John Gutekunst as a defensive analyst with the staff could be a key boost. “But we’re fighting and we’re going to go all the way. You look at practice, these players aren’t down. These guys are fighting to have fun. These kids have faced a lot of adversity this year and they’re still standing and they’re getting better. I see some positives.”

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

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