photo courtesy of ecupirates.com
ECU hit the practice field yet again on Tuesday and head coach Mike Houston called it the best practice they’ve had so far.
“I thought we had incredible effort. Thought guys were really flying around. I thought we had a positive enthusiasm in trying to encourage each other. Was it perfect? No, we made some mistakes and stuff. But our effort and trying to do what you’re coached to do was definitely there today. No better example than right there at the end, we’re doing a kickoff coverage drill which is a full field-deal, and it’s hard. Linemen are down there doing conditioning and everybody’s giving great effort. Everybody is still, after two-plus hours out there trying to do things correctly. Very positive day today.”
Houston went even further to call the practice just what the Pirates needed in terms of progress. The players didn’t grumble and had a very positive attitude all day according to Houston. ECU was able to do their first inside run drill today with thud tackling and will be able to do live tackling on Wednesday as they add on knee pads to go full pads.
Houston said ECU continues to progress in its installation. He said the offense would nearly be fully installed by the end of the week and that it would take the defense until the middle of next week to be fully installed.
It was the first day they incorporated third-down situations and Houston said it was a positive for the defense. He said they threw a lot at the defense in terms of communication and talking to each other.
“It has got to be about everybody else. It’s got to be about doing your part and counting on everybody else. One of those examples is in the secondary. Because if you’re so absorbed within yourself and not involved with everybody else, and not trying to be a part of something bigger than yourself, you’re going to be the one that busts a coverage and doesn’t communicate and doesn’t get the call. You’re going to be that guy, and we can’t have that guy in our program. It’s got to be about each other and it’s got to be about the team.”
Houston said ECU is trying out a few different options for kick and punt returners right now. That includes Tyler Snead, Ja’Quan McMillian, Juan Powell, Malik Fleming, Darius Pinnix, Blake Proehl, and Demetrius Mauney. He said they will get that list down to three as they get closer to facing NC State.
Houston said the additions they have made to the tight end group has improved the position group greatly.
Houston again complimented Kendall Futrell’s performance on the defensive line and said the matchup between him and left tackle D’Ante Smith on the offensive line has been an everyday highlight of camp so far.
While Tuesday was the best practice of camp so far and Houston loved the positive attitude from players and coaches on Tuesday, Wednesday will be a new day for the Pirates to start over and get better again.
“I try to always be a positive coach and I believe in positive enthusiasm. I don’t believe in being fake. We’re going to call a spade a spade. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s not, it’s not. If it’s acceptable, good. If it’s not, you’ve got to be real with it. I was really proud of our effort and attitude today and I think they should leave the practice field feeling better about themselves because they got better today. Now the thing is can we build on that going into full pads tomorrow? As crazy as it sounds, putting on knee pads, there’s something mental with football players. We’re going to be challenged. It’s going to be hot and it’ll be full pads. There will be some live contact at multiple portions of the practice tomorrow. So tomorrow’s going to be a big day for us.”
Photo courtesy of ecupirates.com
The Pirates fall preseason camp took another step forward on Monday, as they had their first practice in pads. It’s also another step forward toward preparing for the season opener on Aug. 31.
Head coach Mike Houston said it makes practices feel more realistic and game-like. The first two practices were heavy on conditioning, but now the practices will be much more physical.
Houston said players will wear pads for the rest of camp, saying it’s something they’ll need to get used to. The Pirates will either be thud tackling or live in practice every day up until the week of the opener.
Houston complimented the offensive line group, saying they continue to improve now that they have incorporated contact. He pointed to the team area as the part where the offensive line impressed.
Houston talked about the differences in the quarterback’s once the pads are on, saying Ahlers is a natural dual-threat quarterback because of his size but that Herring is actually a faster runner. Darius Pinnix also shines in pads because of his size at 234 pounds as a runner. Houston said the Pirates would definitely be able to run the ball this year, citing Pinnix.
Houston pointed to Kendall Futrell as a bright spot on defense making plays with his athleticism. Houston has said he plays hard each and every snap and has provided senior leadership. Futrell, a defensive end from South Central in Winterville, North Carolina, missed spring practices due to injury.
The site ecupirates.com noted how the wide receivers have performed well in camp so far, and how the offense is bringing back similar formations it used under former offensive coordinator and current Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley. The formation has two receivers on the outside and two on the inside at the slots. Offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick said it’s an evolution of the popular Air Raid offense.
Houston has raved about his wide receivers, saying they have a lot of veteran returners at that position so success should be expected. The Pirates can run out Deondr Farrior, Blake Proehl, Leroy Henley, and others as capable pass catchers.
Houston once again referenced past culture and habits, saying a lot of players played at practice speed. Now that isn’t a thing anymore under Houston, and he has the Pirates aiming to create game habits in practice.
The Pirates’ first day off on Sunday was spent with a worship service and a bowling event at night. Houston joked that some of the players shouldn’t quit the day job, but said it was important that things like that continue to help improve off-the-field chemistry.
Photo courtesy of ecupirates.com
ECU has been through two fall preseason camp practices preparing for the season opener on August 31 at NC State. The Pirates will continue to practice every day, taking only Sunday’s off through the preseason. Here are some notes from ECU head coach Mike Houston at camp:
- The summer heat dominated the first two days of camp. Houston was disappointed in veterans tapping out of practice on day one. He said that players responded much better on day two. He pointed to the offensive line group as an example of a group he was disappointed with after the first practice but improved after the second one. Houston talked about the need to finish practice strong and said that it’s going to be hot against State in the opener but players have to fight through and not give up big plays.
- Houston has held off on naming a starting quarterback. Holton Ahlers and Reid Herring have switched off between first and second teams. Bryan Gagg is running the third group consistently. Many other players flipped flopped on the depth chart in the first two days as well. Houston said that the depth chart will fluctuate a lot for the first two weeks of camp in August when things will be solidified and the team will begin to prepare for its opener.
- Four-star commit Traveon Freshwater’s status was uncertain on whether or not he’d be able to go at preseason camp, but he’s participated in the first two practices. Houston said Freshwater has been professional and has done everything he can to be with the team. He is enrolled at ECU and can practice with the team but it hasn’t yet been determined if he can play in games, as Houston said they are still working that out with the NCAA. Freshwater could redshirt and practice with the team all season if not cleared to play.
- Houston often gives inspired answers to questions and didn’t disappoint after the first practice of camp. The morning of, he tweeted out the season schedule and talked about how expectations don’t matter if you don’t back them up.
“I put that tweet out because that quote right there fits a lot of things around here and around this university, and around this program. You can have expectations, that’s all fine and good, but if there’s not a commitment to match those expectations then they’re false. They’re fake. And we’re not going to be about that. We’re going to be committed in this program to meet the expectations that we have. Everybody else has got to be the same way.”
- Houston detailed the differences between spring practices and fall practices. He said that spring practice was for developing younger players and seeing what you have on your roster, whereas fall practices are for getting a football team ready to play its next opponent.
- Houston has been very complimentary of the Pirates new practice field, especially the turf field. It is part of the many facility upgrades that have taken place around the campus, including the renovation project to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
- The Pirates updated their weight listing for the 2019 rosters, and D’Angelo McKinnie went through the biggest change, going from 235 in 2018 to 277 currently. McKinnie has undergone a position change from a tight end a year ago to a defensive lineman now.
Fresh off of winning the Greenville Regional Monday night, the ECU Pirates got, even more, to be happy about on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Days two and three of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft saw several Pirates picked up by pro teams; Pitcher Jake Agnos, outfielder Bryant Packard, first baseman Spencer Brickhouse, relief pitchers Trey Benton and Evan Voliva, shortstop Turner Brown and catcher Jake Washer.
It was the most picks in one draft class for ECU since 2004, another team that reached the super regional round. It was also the first time the program has ever had multiple players selected in the top five rounds of the draft.
Agnos was picked up first as he went 135 overall in the fourth round by the New York Yankees. His signing bonus slot for that pick is $414,000. Agnos is 11-2 with a 2.02 ERA up to this point. He won the AAC Pitcher-of-the-Year.
He is fresh off of making the All-Tournament team for the regional after pitching eight innings to eliminate in-state rival NC State. Agnos set the single-season AAC and ECU record with 131 strikeouts in the regular season and tied the AAC career strikeout record in the State game when he reached 290.
Packard went 142 overall to the Detroit Tigers in the fifth round. That spot signing bonus is for $386,000.
Packard, last year’s AAC Player-of-the-Year, joined Agnos on the All-Tournament team on Monday. He has hit .363 this year with seven home runs and 40 RBI. Packard dealt with several injuries throughout the season that cost him a few games here and there. Packard set the ECU record for All-American selections last season.
Brickhouse went third to the Arizona Diamondbacks at pick 212 in the seventh round. He has hit 13 home runs and drove in 55 runs with a .335 batting average this season. Brickhouse went 3-for-5 with four RBI in ECU’s 12-3 win over Campbell Monday night.
Benton went in the 15th round (460 overall) to the Cleveland Indians. Benton would have gone higher if not for a shoulder injury that forced him to have surgery recently and end his season prematurely. Benton will miss most of next season.
Voliva went in the 18th round (555 overall) to the Yankees along with Agnos. Voliva dealt with Tommy John Surgery earlier in his career and bounced back to have a strong senior season after a good showing in the postseason a year ago.
Brown went in the 19th round (579 overall) to the Colorado Rockies. Brown played shortstop all four years at ECU and was a great fielder. Brown was a career .269 hitter and played through shoulder injuries of his own last season.
Washer went in the 29th round (882 overall) to the Chicago Cubs. Washer didn’t play much early in his ECU career being behind former catcher Travis Watkins but took over and excelled. Washer’s 17 home runs this season leads the team.
Brown and Voliva are the only seniors picked and all the rest are juniors. There was technically one more, as ECU pitching commit CJ Mayhue was picked by the Seattle Mariners in the 36th round.