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Football coaches mingle in Cary

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From left, N.C. State, East Carolina, Duke, North Carolina and N.C. Central football helmets are displayed at the Bill Dooley Pigskin Preview.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, July 16, 2018

CARY — The 16th annual Bill Dooley Pigskin Preview followed tradition Monday and turned into part comedy act by the five coaches involved and part serious football talk.

East Carolina third-year coach Scottie Montgomery and N.C. Central interim coach Granville Eastman were joined by Atlantic Coast Conference veterans David Cutcliffe from Duke, N.C. State’s Dave Doeren and Larry Fedora of North Carolina for the football preview luncheon.

Cutcliffe joked about being the eldest in his 11th Bill Dooley event, and Doeren took a jab at Fedora for drinking too much Red Bull. All five men were asked to talk about their favorite meal to cook, and Montgomery gave up his guilty pleasure of frying fish.

It was light-hearted because it is July, but the coaches also were aware that their offseason is dwindling.

“To have an event where you are face to face and shoulder and shoulder with your rival coaches so close to the season is unique,” said Doeren, whose N.C. State squad went 9-4 a year ago and will not face ECU or Duke this season but it will close the regular season at UNC.

Montgomery noted that he likes the experience returning on the ECU offensive line and he gave up a brief quarterback update.

“We think we’ll be led this year by Raleigh native Reid Herring at the quarterback position,” he said. “He’s done a tremendous job for us in knowing the program and knowing the expectations of the program with leadership and leading the program on the field, but it will be a tight battle at quarterback.

“We’ve been blessed to recruit well in the state of North Carolina with (Greenville native) Holton Ahlers joining us for this year and Kingsley Ifedi from Charlotte. We’ve been very excited the past few years about being able to sign the two best quarterbacks in each class in the state.”

Montgomery was positioned on the stage between Cutcliffe, for whom he was an offensive assistant before taking over the Pirates, and Doeren.

The Tar Heels and Pirates, who will face each other Sept. 8 in Greenville, both went 3-9 last season. Duke hosts N.C. Central on Sept. 22.

ECU has found momentum this offseason on the recruiting trail and the Heels return eight starters on defense after an injury-plagued 2017.

“We have three of our four starters back on the defensive line, and (interior lineman) Aaron Crawford is poised to have a tremendous year,” Fedora said. “Cole Holcomb at linebacker is starting for the third season. … We have some guys who are battling at quarterback (in Chazz Surratt and Nathan Elliot) and they will battle on through camp and we’ll make a decision going into that first game.”

The fact that the coaches discussed personnel and team strengths was a sign that football practices and games are inching closer. Coaches will have more speaking obligations upcoming, highlighted by conferences conducting their media days.

Montgomery stayed true to the Pirates’ “work the body” mantra from spring drills. He also talked about the importance of consistency within his coaching staff and already being excited about ECU’s first preseason practice on Aug. 3.

“It’s football time,” he said.

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

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