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Houston: Players have embraced ECU staff

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East Carolina's head football coach Mike Houston introduces his staff at the 2019 Signing Day Celebration at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Feb. 6, 2019. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

East Carolina’s football team is basically being led by strength and conditioning director John Williams for another month, but head coach Mike Houston also has used weekly meetings with players and the team’s leadership council to receive positive feedback about workouts with Williams.

Williams, a Greenville native and J.H. Rose High School graduate, is like a lot of the Pirate football staff members in that he left James Madison for ECU in December to end a successful three-year stint with the Dukes at the Football Championship Subdivision level.

Houston guided JMU to a 37-6 record in three years, including a 34-14 victory at ECU to begin 2017. The list of ECU staffers who came from James Madison this offseason included coordinators Donnie Kirkpatrick (offense) and Bob Trott (defense).

“They are currently training five days a week, in the mornings, with a combination of lifting and running,” Houston said last week during the Pirates’ national signing day event for fans. “I will say that we have been extremely pleased with the attitude and the effort and just the way that group has embraced our staff. ... The way these young men are buying in to everything coach Williams is teaching them and everything that we believe, philosophy-wise, has been really encouraging.

“With the combination of this signing class and the current players returning, we are very excited for the start of spring practice and then preseason camp and what lies ahead.”

Williams stressed consistency as a major sticking point in his offseason program.

“Culture is not what you say, but it is what you do every day,” he said. “What we are trying to do is trying to create (good) habits, and a culture of those habits.”

Spring practice for the Pirates begins March 15. The annual Purple-Gold spring game is set for April 13.

ECU’s recruiting class finished fifth in the American Athletic Conference, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings. The top four were UCF followed by Memphis, SMU and Cincinnati.

Eight of the players who signed with East Carolina in December enrolled at ECU and have been participating in workouts with Williams.

That does not include the Pitt County trio of Farmville Central defensive lineman Keziah Everett, D.H. Conley receiver CJ Johnson and South Central athlete Jeremy Lewis. All three have excelled in other prep sports this semester, including Johnson and Lewis in basketball.

Johnson, who was one of the top WRs in the state as a senior, is a key hoops player for a Conley team that is on a six-game win streak. Lewis is a starting forward for South Central, which is ranked No. 6 in the nation by USA Today and is aiming to break through for its first state championship under veteran coach Chris Cherry.

“Jeremy is playing basketball and I hear they have a pretty good team over there,” Houston joked about the former defensive end and wide receiver for the Falcons, who signed with the Pirates to play tight end.

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

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