On the same day the Charlotte-North Carolina football game was canceled two days before its existence because Charlotte has too many offensive linemen in quarantine, East Carolina surged ahead with its practice schedule Thursday and its preparations toward playing UCF on Sept. 26 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
It was a wet surge.
“We’re all out there getting soaked together, there’s no doubt,” ECU coach Mike Houston said of the rainy late-afternoon outdoor team workout. “You never know when you might have a game like that and when you might have this kind of weather. ... With so many new young guys, there’s a lot of firsts this week. We worked late-game situations again at the end of practice today and a couple of them get confused on exactly what is this and wondering what it is again. You can go over it again and again, but there’s no replacement for experience. Game experience means so much.”
One of the Pirates’ rookies is bracing for a new experience. Houston announced quarterback Taji Hudson has moved to receiver and been impressive with his ball skills, setting him up to possibly make an impact catching the ball instead of passing it this season.
Hudson’s position switch was a benefit of the Pirates’ scout work on UCF, which is riding a four-game win streak against the Pirates.
“He’s working on the offensive scout team so we stuck him out at receiver, and we’ve all been talking about this possibility, but holy cow,” Houston said. “You talk about showing your athleticism and playmaking ability. We’ve made the transition, for this year, he’s going to play wide receiver for us and be handling the ball on special teams. He’s taller than most of our tight ends, other than Zech Byrd, and he’s more athletic than just about anybody on the team.”
Hudson is a 6-foot-3, 206-pound freshman who signed with ECU in December after playing quarterback and free safety for Cedartown (Ga.) High School. He was ranked by 247Sports as the 37th-best dual-threat quarterback in the country, but it is redshirt freshman Alex Flinn and true freshman Mason Garcia (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) who have emerged as the main candidates to be Pirate starting QB Holton Ahlers’ backup.
After a full week of practices, including Thursday’s rainy session, ECU will shift focus for its next workout before taking Saturday off. UCF plays at Georgia Tech on Saturday afternoon.
“(Friday) will be like a game simulation and we’ll work a lot of stuff as it relates to game day and pregame warmups,” Houston said. “We’ll work a lot of our situations, so it is practice, but it’s more of a mental thing than a full-scale practice. We’re getting toward the end of our preparations, as far as preseason camp goes, and next week is game week, so the guys’ spirits are high about that.”