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Practice begins; Houston wants more tempo

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Head coach Mike Houston leads practice on Friday morning. March 15, 2019.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, March 15, 2019

The process of catching up to first-year East Carolina football coach Mike Houston’s desired speed picked up in intensity Friday morning when the Pirates conducted their first spring practice.

Houston said it was a solid and productive practice, yet he noticed ECU’s team has some bad habits to break after three straight 3-9 seasons. He specifically pointed out some areas on defense.

“We are going to sprint on to the football field and when the ball is snapped, we are going to play really fast on both sides of the football,” Houston said when asked about his bad habits reference. “Our defense is going to run their butt to the football, I can promise you that. That is one thing that is glaring right now that we have to improve on.”

On offense, which featured quarterbacks Holton Ahlers and Reid Herring both throwing as regular practice participants, Houston expects things to be fluid as familiarity grows this spring.

“Today they were just trying to function,” Houston said of his group of QBs, which included freshman and December signee Bryan Gagg. “They were trying to figure out to wait on the defense to get set or to go ahead and snap it, and how fast to go. They were asking all of those procedural questions and it’s kind of the get to know each other deal.

“So everybody today was really focused on functioning. As we move on, though, I expect the quarterbacks to be the leaders of the units.”

Ahlers, a sophomore and Greenville native, is projected to be the Pirates’ starting QB.

Standout defensive end Nate Harvey did participate in practice. He is working out with the team as he waits to hear from the NCAA if he is cleared for game action for a medical hardship final year of eligibility.

The players were in helmets, but no other pads, and shorts. They will be in the same gear Saturday morning before putting on shoulder pads for Monday’s session. The first spring scrimmage is scheduled for March 30.

“I thought the biggest positive was that we had a lot of guys trying,” Houston said. “This film, for them, is golden. We have to do a great job of that film this afternoon and tomorrow morning as a coaching staff. We have to do things better, operationally, too, and we have to practice faster.”

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

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