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Winstead working as potential starter

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East Carolina's Peyton Winstead (57) looks on during drills at practice Tuesday.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Peyton Winstead and Garrett McGhin are often directly beside each other to the form the right side of the top offensive line during East Carolina football practices.

They can blend together at times with their similar frames and more similar hairstyle of dark curls flowing out of the back of their helmets.

The main difference is McGhin is a senior and Winstead is a freshman who is in his first college preseason camp, but he could be working his way toward immediately being the Pirates’ starting right guard.

“It’s fun to watch,” McGhin said of Winstead’s impact. “I remember him coming on his (recruiting) visit and him getting here and going through spring ball. Just the time he has matured from the spring until now is phenomenal. He’s also one of my best friends and I joke around that he’s my youngest boy with a lot of sons I have on the team.”

ECU coaches are high on the team’s freshmen receivers and defensive backs, but the list of rookies looking to start might need to begin with Winstead. Like quarterback and Greenville native Holton Ahlers, the 6-foot-3, 287-pound Winstead signed with the Pirates in December out of Leesville Road High School in Raleigh and made a quick impact during spring drills.

“He doesn’t play at all like a true freshman and I think it is definitely realistic for him (to start),” offensive line coach Don Mahoney said Tuesday. “He is able to change direction really fast and having started out at the center position, he is an extremely intelligent player with a skill-set that can get him right when he is wrong because he is so quick-twitched.”

Winstead was not a full participant at Wednesday’s practice but is expected back to full strength in the coming days.

Head coach Scottie Montgomery has described junior left guard Cortez Herrin as one of the team’s best players this preseason. D’Ante Smith still leads the way at left tackle, and John Spellacy returns as the starting center.

Battles in the trenches were part of Wednesday’s practice, which was the first time the Pirates were in full pads. Montgomery said the defensive line is ahead of the O-line in terms of depth at this point.

“With our (starters) we are having a really good stalemate matchup up front, but in our 2s, the depth of our defensive front is really giving us problems with our 2s on the offensive front,” he said. “We are going to continue to work that. We are faster on our (defensive) front and really fast at end because we have done some things and adjusted some people to make us really, really fast there.”

Other offensive guards looking to bump Winstead from the top spot and who will be prominent while Winstead is out include senior Dqmarcus Shaw, who started two games a year ago, and summer addition Jordan Johnson from Garden City Community College.

This could be the second straight year the Pirates rely on a talented rookie on the offensive line. Spellacy started eight games in 2017.

“I’ve talked to him a little bit and told him to just be calm and listen to the calls,” Spellacy said of playing beside Winstead.

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

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