BYH, some see the glass as half empty. I say just get a smaller glass and quit complaining....

Assessing ECU's tight ends, offense

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East Carolina's Holton Ahlers doors back to pass during a game against Gardner-Webb on Sept. 7, 2019.


The Daily Reflector

Thursday, September 12, 2019

A new wrinkle with this year's East Carolina football offense is an importance at tight end, where Zech Byrd, Anthony Watley and Jeremy Lewis all have played for ECU in both games.

Watley is a senior and the starter, but it was transfer sophomore Byrd with one catch in each game so far and Lewis, a freshman from Winterville, who nearly jumped and brought in a touchdown reception during the fourth quarter of a 34-6 loss at N.C. State on Aug. 31.

ECU had 11 different players catch a pass in Week 1. Last week in a 48-9 rout of Gardner-Webb to even the Pirates' record under first-year head coach Mike Houston, there were eight different receivers who connected with starting quarterback Holton Ahlers or backup QB Reid Herring, who saw limited action during the blowout.

"I think it is who is the better blocker on a certain type of a block or who is a better receiver, and I think Jeremy Lewis has probably showed that during practices (as a receiver)," Pirate offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick said of ECU's tight ends. "It's by committee and I like having some depth there and wish we had one more who could get in there and do it too. It's a tough position to recruit.

"What we want is a tight end who is a receiver ... but also an athletic tackle like an offensive lineman, and we like to put them in the backfield a little bit and motion them and block. There is just a lot of skills, and you just don't really find that guy in high school."

Kirkpatrick then noted that Lewis was a defensive end and wide receiver at South Central High School before signing with the Pirates to transition to tight end.

Outside receiver Blake Proehl is ECU’s leading pass-catcher heading into Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. matchup at Navy (1-0) to begin American Athletic Conference play. He has 12 receptions, 113 yards and a touchdown.

The Midshipmen, who are best known for still using the run-heavy, triple-option offense, are trying to regroup after an uncharacteristic 3-10 record in 2018.

Head coach Ken Niumatalolo, who is in his 12th year in charge at Navy, used part of the offseason to focus on defensive changes. He brought in coordinator Brian Newberry from Kennesaw State and three other new defensive assistants.

One thing Houston is counting on for Saturday is a variety of blitzes.

"Against Holy Cross (during Week 1), what I saw is a very aggressive group," he said of Navy's defense. “They are not going to really give you anything down the field in the passing game, but they are going to be aggressive at the line of scrimmage. You'll see a lot of pressure and see them blitz on first down and blitz on third down."

Three of the Midshipmen’s five senior starters play defensive line, led by end Nizaire Cromartie who had one of the team’s three sacks in Week 1. The interior senior starters are Jackson Pittman (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) and Marcus Edwards (6-4, 289).

After Wednesday's practice for ECU that included the defense practicing some without a football to test players' accountability and gap control, Kirkpatrick and Houston both broke down how unique it is for an opposing offense when playing against a team like Navy or Army.

"We will try to do the same thing that they are trying to do," said Houston, who also said Wednesday that senior cornerback Colby Gore is active to play this week after serving a two-game suspension for an infraction he made during the winter. "We will try to drive the football and keep their offense on the sideline. You have to stick the ball in the end zone is a thing you need to do to be productive against a team like this."

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


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


September 14, 2019

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Navy cruised to a 2-0 record in a frustrating day Saturday for East Carolina football, which lost 42-10 to the Midshipmen for ECU to drop to 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the American Athletic Conference in coach Mike Houston’s first season with the Pirates.

Here are three…

East Carolina Navy Football-4

September 14, 2019

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Add quarterback Malcolm Perry prominently to the list of Navy football players to enjoy spinning, shaking, shedding and sizzling the East Carolina football defense.

In a series that began in 2006 and has been dictated by the Midshipmen and their punishing and methodical…

East Carolina Navy Football

September 14, 2019

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Among the improbable things for a disastrous day by the East Carolina football team Saturday was that Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry passed for more yards than Holton Ahlers.

Perry and a stingy Navy defense led the charge in the Midshipmen's 42-10 rout of the Pirates in the…

East Carolina Navy Football-3

September 14, 2019

Here are three Navy players to keep an eye on as East Carolina heads to Annapolis, Md., to face the Midshipmen in American Athletic Conference action:

Malcolm Perry

Any Navy team runs as good as its quarterback. Perry, a senior former running back, is far from a perfect passer but he remains as one…

Navy Football Preview

September 14, 2019

Q: What is your favorite form of social media?

A: I would say Twitter. It’s more active, everybody is on Twitter. I like Instagram, too, but I like Twitter more.

Q: Where is your favorite spot to eat at in Greenville?

A: I will say Kickback Jacks. I like Kickback Jacks. I love their spinach…


September 14, 2019

These three questions appeared in our Pirate Gameday section to preview East Carolina versus Navy in football. 

The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network. Check back after the game for the answers:

1. Any turnovers by the Pirates? Because of time of possession, turnovers…


September 14, 2019

Mike Houston didn't celebrate too long after his first victory as East Carolina's football coach, partly because he knew what was ahead in this week's trip trip to Navy.

ECU (1-1) and Navy (1-0) play their respective first American Athletic Conference game of the season today in a 3:30 p.m. kickoff…


September 13, 2019

Navy football coach Ken Niumatalolo said earlier this week that he wants to see more passes this year from quarterback Malcolm Perry.

East Carolina defensive coordinator Bob Trott is not putting too much stock into any new Navy mindset and is still planning to mainly see running plays Saturday when…

Navy Football

September 12, 2019

East Carolina first-year athletics director Jon Gilbert said he noticed even before kickoff last Saturday night at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium that slow concessions could be an issue that could increase as the night progressed for ECU’s first home football game of the season, so he put a priority…


September 12, 2019

East Carolina’s football team heads north on Saturday to play Navy, which has beaten the Pirates in three straight meetings and holds a 5-1 all-time advantage in the series.

It will be the American Athletic Conference opener for both teams and coach Mike Houston’s league debut with the…

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