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Blackwell: 'We have to fix it'

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East Carolina defensive coordinator David Blackwell, left, with head coach Scottie Montgomery during a news conference Dec. 8, 2017. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, July 12, 2018

July is a big month for college football fans to soak up preseason hype in the form of magazines, predictions and projections of all kinds.

These things have not been kind already to East Carolina, which has posted consecutive 3-9 seasons under coach Scottie Montgomery.

The Phil Steele Preview Magazine ranks ECU 116th in its power poll of all 130 teams. Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has East Carolina with the worst odds to win the American Athletic Conference at 500 to 1.

First-year defensive coordinator David Blackwell was not here for the Pirates’ historically bad defensive statistics a year ago, but he is aware of them and remains motivated to prove people wrong.

“It’s up to us to change it,” he said Tuesday. “People’s perception is only going to change when we change it. We may not like what people are saying about us, but it’s our jobs as coaches and players to change it.

“We have to live with it. We made the bed, we have to live in it and we have to be the ones to fix it.”

Blackwell added that he talked to his defensive players last Friday about what is out there about the Pirates.

“Everybody pays attention to this stuff,” Blackwell said. “I said that if you don’t get offended by everything that you’ve read or you hear, then there is something wrong. If it doesn’t bother you then there is something wrong with you.”

The Phil Steele magazine is widely viewed as the most trusted preseason publication. Steele predicts the AAC East standings as Central Florida leading the pack followed by Temple, South Florida, Cincinnati, ECU and Connecticut.

Steele notes a positive in projecting the Pirates to likely improve on their turnover ratio and yards allowed per play from 2017, but also points to the meat of the schedule East Carolina will be facing during the first half of the season. It includes games at Virginia Tech, USF and Temple.

“The factors point to improvement in 2018, as does that third-year head coaches usually make big strides with the majority of the team made up of their recruits,” Steele wrote in his ECU preview. “This is Montgomery’s best team, but they face a rugged schedule.”

Blackwell, a former Pirate player who was part of ECU's 1992 Peach Bowl championship team, had plenty of success leading the Jacksonville (Ala.) State defense the last four years. He said he has seen the power a winning Pirate football team can have in eastern North Carolina and is seeking that feeling again in his return to Greenville.

“We have to do it together,” he said. “It’s not just the players and the coaches, but it’s the fan base and everything. There are going to be bumps in the road because life is not easy and there are bumps with everything. We have to have people’s support and our players and coaches have to have belief that we are going to get out of it.”

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

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