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Ahlers named starting QB

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East Carolina's Holton Ahlers works through a quarterback drills during practice on Aug. 20, 2019.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

No more waiting for Holton Ahlers or the rest of the East Carolina football team or Pirate fans.

With next Saturday’s noon kickoff at N.C. State getting closer and closer, first-year Pirate coach Mike Houston officially announced after Tuesday’s practice that Ahlers will be his team’s starting quarterback against the Wolfpack.

“Right now, we feel like Holton is a little bit farther ahead and has performed a little bit better during preseason camp, and that is no knock on Reid (Herring) and I would not hesitate to put him in if the occasion presented itself,” Houston said. “I like Holton’s leadership ability and the way he competes. He does have a lot of intensity and sometimes he probably does need to stay a little more composed, but I like the edginess with the way he is.

“I think that vibe feeds on those around him. Anytime you have a player who raises the level of play of his teammates, I think that is an important characteristic."

Ahlers, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound sophomore and Greenville native, was already viewed by many as the favorite to win the job. He spent preseason camp splitting first-team repetitions with Herring leading up to Saturday’s scrimmage.

Houston added that he talked to both Ahlers and Herring, a junior, on Monday about the QB situation moving forward.

“Reid is a very mature young man and I have a tremendous amount of respect for the way he has handled himself since I got here (in December),” Houston said. “He is fully supportive of Holton, and Holton is fully supportive of Reid. Reid has to be prepared to be the starter at any moment. ... It’s very important for us to have two guys preparing to be the guy, but for right now, Holton will take the reps with the 1s from now until N.C. State.”

Ahlers led ECU in rushing last year as a freshman, totaling 592 yards and six touchdowns on 119 carries for the second-most rushing yards in a season by a QB in school history.

Herring started the first six games, including a 41-19 win over North Carolina when Ahlers made his collegiate debut, coming off the bench to score two rushing touchdowns. He ran for 130 yards against Connecticut, and he passed for 449 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in his second-career start versus Memphis at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

The left-hander finished last year with a 12-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

"We came here to play football and to compete, and that is what we are doing," Ahlers said after ECU's first preseason scrimmage about rotating with Herring. "He is a great guy and we communicate well and talk about the coverages. He is a great guy and I am enjoying it."

Tuesday’s practice was the Pirates’ first afternoon workout since preseason camp began Aug. 2. Houston was not particularly pleased how his squad responded to the switch to more of an in-season practice.

“Our kickoff team is outside right now finishing up and they are practicing breaking the huddle and taking the line,” he said. “Those are two things that are very important to us, and I stressed upon them the importance of details. Right now details cannot be more important. ... We have to come out and have a good day tomorrow. Thankfully, we do not have a game on Saturday."

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

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