Draft day is Friday for the East Carolina football team’s final spring scrimmage the next day at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, which is now open to fans to simply watch the football Saturday afternoon without the usual festivities surrounding a spring game.
Veteran players will lead the draft, selecting other players grouped within their positional units to evenly split up the team’s entire roster for competitive purposes.
“The kids, I think, are more excited about that than they are anything else,” said coach Mike Houston after Tuesday’s practice, adding that Saturday is not a full Pigskin Pig-Out event but a scrimmage open to the public with COVID-19 protocols. “They wanted to do it, and this is one year where we actually have enough depth on our roster now to have a legitimate two offenses and two defenses. ... They’ll get together and draft Friday, then we’ll have a practice Friday with the two groups who will scrimmage on Saturday. It will be a traditional scoring system.”
ECU Athletics clarified Tuesday that parking will be available on the north side of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Entry points are Gates 7 and 8. Masks will be required upon entry to the stadium, which will have sections on the north side blocked off for social distancing.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
“We need to just sharpen everything up and clean everything up and having a highly competitive day on Saturday,” Houston said. “Staying healthy is probably the most important one, and just finish off with a lot of positive momentum similar to the way we finished the (2020) season.”
ECU did not hold any spring practices in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic. The Pirates started last season 1-6, including a 44-24 win at South Florida, before closing with double-digit victories over Temple and SMU for a 3-5 American Athletic Conference record in Houston’s second season.
No spring practices a year ago meant no spring team work for freshman Mason Garcia and other underclassman quarterbacks behind veteran starter Holton Ahlers. The five QBs — Ahlers, Garcia, Alex Flinn, Ryan Stubblefield and Walter Simmons — all participated in last Saturday’s scrimmage and will be put in more competitive situations this weekend while split up after Friday’s player-led draft.
The QBs collectively were 28-of-36 for 313 yards, good for 11.18 yards per completion, in the first spring scrimmage almost a week ago.
“Four of them are young ... and they all respect and understand Holton is the starter,” Houston said. “They are all competing and trying to get better every single day. They will dictate the depth chart, but all of them have ability. I think in today’s college game, you better have a good quarterback room.”