Some of East Carolina’s football players are now on the scout team, especially mimicking UCF’s high-powered offense during practices, which was a major sign Tuesday the Pirates’ first game is near.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of depth, however, the players who have shifted to scout work still need to be ready to be active Pirates on Saturdays.
“Especially this year, everybody better be ready to play because you never know who is going to get pulled on your Friday COVID test,” said Pirate second-year coach Mike Houston, whose team hosts UCF on Sept. 26. “That is the reality. There are some kids who are on our scout offense or scout defense who will travel and play on special teams. ... That’s a thing you love about college football, and I try to preach to our kids that you earn your time based on your performance. Once we get out there, I don’t care who they are and what their last name is or what class they are or scholarship or walk-on, it doesn’t matter because the best players are going to be the ones who take the snaps on game days.”
ECU practiced in full pads Tuesday for the first time since its final preseason scrimmage held Friday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Houston said his team was down to one active COVID-19 case Tuesday.
“We have a large number that came out of quarantine this week and some of them were in isolation, so they are return-to-play protocol,” he said. “Some of them were just in quarantine, so they started back practicing in the last day. There are variety of different levels. We do have one active case still out, and I do not anticipate that player being available for Central Florida.”
Despite not having an opponent this weekend, the Pirates are treating their midweek practices like they would in preparing for a Saturday game.
They will be in a true game week next week, getting ready for American Athletic Conference preseason favorite UCF. The Knights needed to hold off a second-half rally attempt by ECU a year ago in their matchup, winning 41-28 in Orlando as part of UCF’s 6-2 AAC record in 2019.
“That scrimmage was the last time we’ll tackle our offensive backs to the ground, but the scout work we get defensively and the scout work we get offensively is pretty aggressive thud tempo,” Houston said. “It’s close, but it’s not quite there. I think we have to constantly create some competitive situations at practice to really make our guys play fast against speed. That’s going to be the key for us.”
Beginning with the UCF matchup, ECU is scheduled for four straight games in as many Saturdays. Its next open date is Oct. 24.