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Schedule shift leads to new ideas

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East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery looks over to players as he roams the field at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for ECU's spring football game. March 24, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

East Carolina held spring football practice early this year, ending it with the annual Purple-Gold Game on March 24 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, and that led to more free time for the Pirate players and coaches in April.

Coach Scottie Montgomery said Wednesday during the American Athletic Conference coaches spring teleconference that first and foremost the schedule change has benefited the players to focus on midterms and other exams at this point in the semester.

It also led to ECU coaches visiting other schools to check out their spring sessions.

“We had staff members at Clemson and staff members at Mississippi State and we’ve had staff members at several places,” Montgomery said. “I am even going to be able to get out and do some work away from campus that is not necessarily connected directly to football, but is connected to building our facilities and getting things the way they need to be for our student-athletes.”

ECU’s spring practice in many ways was defined by the impact of new defensive coordinator David Blackwell and the connection between first-team quarterback Reid Herring and lead receiver Trevon Brown.

The spring game featured Brown making nine catches for 169 yards. Herring, Holton Ahlers and Kingsley Ifedi were all solid at quarterback, and redshirt freshman running back Trace Christian had a big day with 97 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries.

Montgomery reiterated Wednesday that Herring, a redshirt sophomore, and Ahlers, a true freshman and Greenville native, stood out during the spring and that Blackwell is a great fit to lead a Pirate defense that struggled mightily a season ago.

“We’ve watched (the spring game) several times in different ways, whether it be the full game together or separate with the offensive and defensive staffs or as we’ve build our cut-ups from the entire spring,” the Pirates’ third-year head coach and former Duke offensive coordinator said. “We have a lot of time right now to watch our spring ball and you want to watch your personnel, of course, and there is a lot of growth going on right now with some of the young players.”

This is an important offseason for Montgomery and the Pirates after consecutive 3-9 seasons. The 2017 campaign ended with ECU losing 70-13 at Memphis, and Montgomery said after the lopsided defeat that the Pirates will make a bowl game this year.

East Carolina opens with consecutive home games Sept. 1 against North Carolina A&T and Sept. 8 versus North Carolina.

“It’s really productive to be able to come into a room and everybody knows the mode and which direction we are going,” Montgomery said. “I am really excited about where we are and we have taken the adversity as anybody should because you should be really critical of yourself, and I am critical of myself with some of the adversity that we’ve had. But also you have to realize that with some of the adversity that we have had, you have to deal with it to be able to get to the point where we are now.”

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

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