ECU power combo ready to run
BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Friday, April 5, 2019
East Carolina football’s second spring scrimmage will be set up similar to last Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, but it also will not be a carbon copy in terms of full details and situations.
Coach Mike Houston said after Friday morning’s workout that there will be some new wrinkles and simulations for Saturday’s scrimmage, including a two-minute drill with the offense trying to rally for late points.
“Nerves should be settled a little bit more, but hopefully you see two squads going at it,” he said. “Obviously we’ve continued to evolve and we have a lot more in this week than we did last week, on both sides of the ball. We’re going to simulate an end of the game kind of deal with a two-minute drill to finish the day.”
When asked about the Pirates’ run game, Houston again lauded Darius Pinnix and how his physical style stands out during spring drills. The 2016 Football Championship Subdivision national champion coach at James Madison said at this point in the spring, coaches are looking to determine who could be the Nos. 2 and 3 running backs behind Pinnix, who carried the ball 56 times for 222 yards last season.
No. 1 quarterback Holton Ahlers led ECU in rushing attempts (119), yards (592) and touchdowns (six) as a freshman in 2018, but all QBs wear red jerseys and are mainly guarded against hits during spring practices.
“(Ahlers) would love for me to let him go full speed and that’s the one thing about him I don’t doubt is his mental makeup,” Houston said of the Greenville native who is working ahead of Reid Herring and Bryan Gagg at quarterback. “He is what you want, but you can’t play quarterback like a middle linebacker all the time. … But that kind of fight and that kind of competitor, that is what you want in your entire program across the board at every single roster spot.
“You don’t really know exactly how good that (run) portion is until we get to that first ball game, because we are not going to beat on him and you can’t do that to your quarterbacks, but I am excited to see him play within our offense.”
Ahlers is listed as a 6-foot-3, 236-pound left-hander. Pinnix is 6-feet and 227 pounds.
On defense is where ECU is making major scheme and philosophical changes compared to previous seasons, which ended with 3-9 records each of the last three years under former head coach Scottie Montgomery and multiple different defensive coordinators.
Houston brought both offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick and defensive coordinator Bob Trott with him from JMU.
“We are pretty diverse and haven’t been able to get into all of that stuff this spring, with only 15 practices, but by the time we see N.C. State on Aug. 31 we should have our full defensive playbook in,” Houston said.
The Pirates had Pinnix, a rising junior, and Trace Christian each run for a touchdown during the first scrimmage, part of Pinnix carrying 18 times for 59 yards.
Defensive linemen Chance Purvis and Alex Turner also have thrived at times learning a new scheme. Purvis led the defense with eight tackles and two sacks last Saturday.
“I told them that at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning for our team meeting, they better be locked in and ready to go and to compete,” Houston said. “We have a lot to find out about ourselves tomorrow. We have to challenge each other, so I’m really looking forward to it.
“There is a lot of urgency right now and nobody wants any part of what has been here the last couple of years. We have to change it.”
Contact Ronnie Woodward at email@example.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.