East Carolina football coach Mike Houston has highlighted the excitement and also challenges surrounding the start to his team’s preseason camp amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s unlike any preseason camp we’ve ever had,” he said in a video interview provided by ECU athletics Thursday. “Just the protocols we’re having to follow and things we’re having to do to just logistically operate are pretty daunting, but the players have had positive attitudes and a lot of people have worked extremely hard to try to get us where we can function and get out there and practice. I’ve been pleased with everybody pitching in and it’s been a lot of all hands on deck to get a lot of stuff done.”

A Southeastern Conference announcement late Thursday afternoon of playing league games only effectively wiped out the Pirates’ planned contest at South Carolina for Sept. 12. ECU also already had its Sept. 19 game, against Norfolk State at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, postponed.

ECU is preparing for its opener still scheduled for Aug. 29 against Conference USA member Marshall at Dowdy-Ficklen.

The Pirates’ first official practice is scheduled for Friday morning. Players had been participating in various voluntary and mandatory summer workouts, which were paused July 15 and resumed July 22.

Houston also said the biggest challenge of this offseason has been “non-football things.” The Pirates’ 2019 season ended in November and the team has not had a formal practice since then. All spring practices were canceled because of the virus.

“I think we are a big, good-looking bunch,” Houston said. “We may be green as all get out, but we have some size with some of our newcomers and have some athleticism I’m really pleased with. I’m excited to see them practice full speed on Friday and really see them in action. I’ve said it many times that I like this group, and I’m excited to see them get out there and play and improve. They are going to improve a lot, every single day, just with some of the inexperience we have.”

The Pirates, who posted a 4-8 record last year in Houston’s first season with the team for a one-win improvement upon each of the previous three campaigns, are scheduled to practice Friday and Saturday mornings. Practices will be closed in-person to local media in accordance to current university health and safety protocols in place for COVID-19.

“Socially distant meetings and wearing a mask everywhere we go is different, but even still, you’re around your friends and around your teammates,” Houston said. “I think that means a lot to them.”

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