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Turner's toughness impresses Houston

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East Carolina's defensive coordinator Bob Trott watches from the sideline during the team's scrimmage on Aug. 10, 2019.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Alex Turner was the first player East Carolina football coach Mike Houston mentioned in his post-scrimmage comments Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

The coach loves the interior defensive lineman’s grit.

Turner, who is 6-foot-2 and 279 pounds and last month was recognized as a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, then said Saturday that positivity is a big part of his leadership style.

“I think the best thing you can do is be positive,” he said. “You have to bring guys with you. You can’t be negative when bad plays happen, but celebrate when good things happen and embrace it.”

Turner and end Kendall Futrell, who are both seniors, were impressive during the Pirates’ first week of preseason camp, and their standout play continued during the team’s first scrimmage.

“He showed the leadership and the toughness and the intensity that we want from our defensive unit,” Houston said of Turner, whose breakthrough junior campaign a year ago was highlighted by four sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss.

The Pirates will undoubtedly lean on Futrell and Turner to guide their pass rush after mixed results last season on defense. Led by then-senior Nate Harvey, ECU finished 22nd in the country is sacks (2.8 per game), but its pass defense ranked 121st and total defense was No. 101.

Like most of ECU’s assistant coaches, defensive coordinator Bob Trott came with Houston from James Madison. Trott also is the Pirates’ safeties coach.

“I definitely think a lot of our defensive intelligence has dramatically increased,” Turner said of preseason camp. “Our tackling and our fundamentals have definitely increased, which you can see with the way a lot of the guys are playing on the field and working hard. You can also see a lot in the secondary of getting better at pass defense.”

Battles in the trenches by offensive and defensive linemen have been important for ECU during camp. That was true earlier in the week during 3-on-3, goal-line drills and again Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Linebacker Xavier Smith was the leading tackler with 10 tackles.

Houston said expected playmakers stepped up on offense, but also the coach wanted to see more consistent intensity on offense and defense.

“As the head coach, I am happy and I am mad because I am happy about the things we are doing well and upset about the things we are not doing well,” Houston said. “That is just the way it is when you are going against yourself. I do think we took a big first step toward Aug. 31 and I think there were some things that were very evident to me, good and bad, on the field. ... We have been playing catch-up from Day 1 (of preseason camp), so I think we just have to have a really solid week next week.”

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

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ECU

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