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Houston: Pirates need new identity

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

In Mike Houston’s estimation, the key to rebuilding the football team at East Carolina is redefining the team’s identity.

The new face of ECU football laid out his blueprint for the Pirates in a news conference on Tuesday, the same plans he said he had already detailed to the team’s players. Those players are in the midst of an always-difficult coaching transition after third-year coach Scottie Montgomery was fired last Thursday and Houston, the former national championship coach of FCS member James Madison, was hired Monday.

Houston has beaten them — his JMU team defeated Montgomery’s Pirates to open the 2017 season — but now he has joined them, and the coach was concise in describing his plan to change the team that went 9-27 the last three season and produce winning seasons like the ones he enjoyed with the Dukes.

He said he wants to make ECU more like it was when he was growing up and playing football in the state, and he believes that can happen under his guidance.

“I’m a firm believer that if you want a certain identity on game day, that had better be your identity year-round,” Houston said, adding that the daily approach of the team will produce its long-term results. “I can promise you we are going to be a hard-nosed, physical, fundamentally sound, disciplined football team. We’re going to play with intensity, passion and fire.”

Houston will run a multiple offense similar to a majority of teams nationwide, and will keep in place the same 4-2-5 defensive scheme Montgomery employed and which also is commonplace in modern college football.

The difference in Houston’s eyes rests in the proper execution of those schemes.

“What I just described to you is something very similar among a lot of programs all around the country and a lot of programs in the (American Athletic Conference),” Houston said of his offensive and defensive approaches. “But I’m a firm believer that it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. Our mentality and our mindset will be more important than the schemes we use.”

The coach also contended that while every team in the country preaches a family atmosphere within the team, he intends to make it a reality.

“I’m going to be heavily involved in the lives of our student-athletes,” he said. “I’m going to be involved in their personal life, who they’re around, what they’re doing, where they are, how they conduct themselves.”

Like any successful coach, Houston hopes to keep cashing in on the recruiting ties he formed while at JMU, but he also is determined to keep on doing something his predecessor did well in recruiting ECU’s home base in Pitt and surrounding counties.

“We are going to recruit the state of North Carolina very aggressively,” said Houston, a Franklin native whose first head coaching job was at Lenoir-Rhyne. “We are not going to back down from anyone in a recruiting battle. We are also going to recruit the surrounding area, the Tidewater and Richmond and Norfolk area of Virginia. We’re going to recruit the state of South Carolina, we’re going to recruit Atlanta, but our home base is going to be in-state football players.”

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.

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