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Almost all shotgun for Pirates

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Quarterback Holton Ahlers (12) throws a pass during East Carolina football practice Wednesday morning.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, March 22, 2019

Like most college football teams, and even East Carolina under the previous coaching staff, first-year head coach Mike Houston plans for ECU’s quarterback to mainly operate out of the shotgun.

“There is points and times where we may be under center, but it is not going to be a lot,” Houston said this week. “We will be in the gun most of the time, and I think that is pretty common across college football.”

Houston and offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick were plenty successful with a spread shotgun-style attack at James Madison. Their offensive highlights at JMU, an annual Football Championship Subdivision frontrunner, included the Dukes bulldozing to 410 rushing yards in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to open the 2017 season with a 34-14 win over ECU.

Now in charge of the hopeful Pirates, Houston’s main theme during spring practices has been physicality, which reflects an offensive style that worked at JMU.

Lead Pirate quarterback Holton Ahlers is comfortable as a shotgun QB, dating back to his standout career at D.H. Conley High School that finished with him ranking second in total offense in North Carolina High School Athletic Association history with 14,784 total yards. He was an ECU freshman in 2018 and shared starting duties with Reid Herring.

East Carolina has five more regular practices planned before holding its first spring scrimmage in Dowdy-Ficklen on March 30.

“Some of our checks and stuff are a little bit different, but (the quarterbacks) are getting a little better every day,” Houston said. “There’s obviously been some bright spots and some areas where we need to improve. The two older guys are obviously more advanced than the younger guys, so we expect a little more out of them.”

Ahlers’ leadership also is present at practice and within the offensive personnel. Herring has split a lot of No. 2 reps with freshman Bryan Gagg.

Gagg is one of eight players who signed with East Carolina in December and enrolled early to begin their academic schedules and participate in spring drills.

“I think Bryan Gagg probably has the most thrown at him (compared to other first-semester players),” Houston said. “All of the sudden, he is thrown into a college offense with all the checks and reads and all that stuff, but he is going in there and working hard every day.”

The Pirates’ other QB signee, Alex Flinn from Asheville, should join the team during the summer.

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

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