PirateIllustrated - Confidence Level High at ECU Media Day on Saturday
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Confidence Level High at ECU Media Day on Saturday

Mike Houston is in his first year at ECU and he talked about the progress made heading into game one at media day on Saturday.
Mike Houston is in his first year at ECU and he talked about the progress made heading into game one at media day on Saturday. (PirateIllustrated.com photo)

With the start of this year’s football season just two weeks away, ECU conducted media day with first year Pirate head coach Mike Houston along with his staff and key players.

Houston is optimistic heading into the beginning of classes for his players next week and coming off of two weeks of fall camp.

“Excited for today and just thinking back to where we were last December, I know that when we got into December and January and working toward spring practice and all the things we were working so hard to get accomplished both with the players and the facility, recruiting, putting a staff together, so many times it seemed overwhelming and you wondered if we would make it to the regular season,” said Houston, “As you look back now, we’ve come a long ways.”

The first year ECU head coach likes the progress made thus far as his team heads into preparation for N.C. State beginning on Monday.

“I spoke to a group of donors in the club level before the scrimmage and I was talking to them about just the transformation of the players in the locker room and on the field and the development and the maturation of our culture,” Houston said, “We’ve come so far. We’re not the finished product yet. We’re not where we want to be yet or what we want to be yet but we’re light years from where we were.”

“Will we ever truly achieve it? Probably not because I don’t think you ever achieve your ultimate goal. You’re always striving to be better. But I’m pleased with where we are as a program today as I stand here. I thought we had a very, very competitive scrimmage this morning. I thought the physicality we saw on the field, that was not any part of our program in the spring. We never had a day where we competed like we did today.”

Saturday’s scrimmage was intense. The defense looked very good at times and the offense had it’s moments but both quarterbacks threw interceptions in addition to completing some passes in the time allotted for the media to view the workout. ECU shows a lot of promise, but they will have to make sure to take care of the football and not allow N.C. State to break serve with any degree of regularity if the Pirates are to come out on top in the season opener on August 31st.

“I’m excited for two weeks from today. The big focus for this portion of the media day is our own team, but the obvious is in two weeks from right now we’ll be in the middle of the first quarter of our opening game of the 2019 season,” Houston said, “When that starts, they start keeping score. There’s winners and losers and all the practice - it’s for real at that point. So it’s here, it’s upon us. We’ll turn our preparation for our season opener but I thought today was a very positive, very demanding, very physical and tough preseason camp and I’m very pleased with the way the roster has responded in the first two weeks.”

Quarterbacks Holton Ahlers and Reid Herring like where things are headed as an offense and they look forward to the first game against the Wolfpack.

“I thought we’ve done a great job. It starts up front with those guys, but we’ve done a good job of communicating and getting the plays down,” Ahlers told PirateIllustrated.com, “I think we have everything installed that we need installed for the season now so we’re excited about it.”

Ahlers says he loves the new offensive structure at East Carolina under offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick.

“I think the offense is great. Pirate fans are going to recognize it from when Coach Riley and Coach Ruff and Coach K were here. We’re excited about it,” said Ahlers, “We’re continuing to grow and learn new stuff every day but we’re definitely excited. I think it fits me great. There’s definitely some plays that will definitely utilize my abilities and I’m just going to let the game come to me this year.”

Reid Herring echoed those sentiments.

“We’ve made huge strides since the spring. We’re kind of all used to the offense now. We’re all playing for each other and being really physical,” Herring told PI, “We’re focused on playing with more of an edge and I think it’s obvious to tell that we’ve flipped the script on our mindset.”

“I think things are going real well. Ever since the spring you can sense a change in the culture here and we just keep pressing forward and keep moving,” said Herring, “Coach Houston has us going in the right direction. It’s been a great offseason and preseason camp for us and you can definitely tell that the mindset has changed for a lot of players. It’s going to be a great fall for us, I think.”

Trimmed down running back Darius Pinnix hopes to make great strides this season and excited to get started.

“The offense has been great. The O-line is really what has made this offense so far and the way this camp has gone, we’re going to have a great season this year,” Pinnix told PI, “The way we’re moving the ball. The defense has been pushing us each and every day but I’m real confident in the players we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of star power on this offense. We just need to be us and play our game. It’s going to be a great season.”

“I have a great feeling about this season. I feel an undefeated season, the old ECU is back.”

Wide receiver Blake Proehl echoed what others said in that they all enjoy the new offensive structure.

“It’s going really, really well. Our new offense is really versatile, we have answers for everything and honestly our defense has competed very well against us in camp and I think that’s a big thing as well because when they’re down, we have to be great and we have to be able to balance things out for sure. I love our new offense. It’s completely different. I felt that we were a little bit restrained at times and we didn’t have answers for certain opponents. I think this year we’ll be the most prepared that we’ve been by far.”

Defensively, Kendall Futrell, says things are looking up heading into a new season beginning August 31 when the Pirates travel to Raleigh to take on N.C. State.

“I’ve definitely seen improvement from the spring to the fall camp. Guys are buying into Coach Trott’s system and what he’s got going on. Guys have been running to the ball, the effort has been great,” said Futrell, “We’re just trying to learn the system and just keep executing at a high level.”

“Coach Hanson has been great. He’s been teaching me a lot of things. He has a lot of experience and different techniques. I’ve just been trying to learn all of them and execute them at a high level so when the season comes, I’ll be ready. We just have to keep practicing hard and I feel like we’ll be good.”

Catch an initial batch of interviews from ECU media day and stay tuned for much more as preparation for the season opener against N.C. State and coverage of ECU football continues here on PirateIllustrated.com.

PI AUDIO: COACH MIKE HOUSTON MEDIA DAY

PI AUDIO: REID HERRING & HUSSEIN HOWE

PI AUDIO: HOLTON AHLERS

PI AUDIO: KENDALL FUTRELL