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Conley connection thriving during spring

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Quarterback Holton Ahlers runs the read-option with Anthony Scott during the East Carolina football scrimmage Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Duce Fuller is catching on with the East Carolina football team this spring, and he is benefiting from a high comfort level with the quarterback often throwing him passes.

Fuller and Holton Ahlers are both freshmen at ECU looking to find their avenue to playing time in the fall. Fuller is a walk-on redshirt freshman and Ahlers a true rookie who was the top prep quarterback in North Carolina just a semester ago.

The former D.H. Conley High School teammates both are working with the second-team ECU offense. On Saturday during one of the final big moments of the Pirates’ scrimmage inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, it was Ahlers who eyed the 5-foot-10, 167-pound Fuller curving toward the end zone, and the left-handed QB floated a pass for Fuller to go up and grab and secure as he was blanketed by a defensive back and fell to the ground for a 21-yard score.

It was reminiscent of their record-setting days at Conley.

“If I’m having fun and he’s having fun. It’s all working out,” said Fuller, a shifty slot receiver who signed with East Carolina last year as an invited walk-on. “There is chemistry because we’ve been playing together for like four years now. It’s a good chemistry and we already have a very good relationship and good feel for the game when we are out there.”

The 6-3, 228-pound Ahlers, who was not available for media interviews this spring per freshmen team policy, stands out as the most intriguing rookie on the Pirate roster. He is working behind sophomore Reid Herring, who has done a quality job of leading the offense as the No. 1 QB ahead of Ahlers and Kingsley Ifedi.

It is also hard to ignore when Ahlers makes a great play with his arm or his legs, like he did to end Monday’s practice when he scrambled out of the pocket and rumbled down the sideline and leaped across the goal line for a rushing touchdown. Like Fuller, he is trying to prove he is ready for a role on this team.

“I can’t say right now, but he’s heading that way,” offensive coordinator Tony Petersen said of Ahlers possibly playing as a freshman. “I still think you have a long ways to go when you are trying to catch somebody who has the snaps that Reid does, and Reid gets it and he’s playing well and he gets (the ball) out.

“They both are playing really well. It’s a great situation to be in right now, but I don’t know where it will be when we get to the first game.”

Ahlers was the second-leading rusher in Saturday’s scrimmage with 48 yards on eight carries. Fuller caught a team-best six passes for 68 yards.

Many of the ECU receivers have notable former Pirate pass-catchers to idolize in Zay Jones, Justin Hardy and Dwayne Harris, among others. For the undersized Fuller, who is practicing with the Pirates without a scholarship, it is Hardy who brings out plenty of motivation for him.

“I look up to him a lot because he was just a walk-on from Vanceboro, at West Craven High School, and he did his work and worked hard and made a name for himself,” Fuller said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”

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

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