East Carolina Making Progress as Spring Practice Ramps Up
ECU spring football practice continued on Tuesday in full gear at Hight Field inside the Cliff Moore Practice Complex.
The Pirates are slowly getting back up to full speed after a delay earlier in the month put a halt to workouts due to Covid-19.
Catching back up has taken time and while progress is never swift, ECU head football coach Mike Houston likes how his team is shaping up as they progress through the week's agenda.
“Good to be back out on the field today. Pretty spirited practice, very competitive practice. Full pads and after a shells practice on Sunday, one with a lot of physicality and competition today,” said ECU head coach Mike Houston, “The kids responded and I’m really pleased with what we saw on the field. We’ll see what it looks like on film, but we’re getting closer to where we were when we went on pause.”
The Pirates are working toward a full Saturday scrimmage that will tell the coaching staff a lot about what they have to do moving forward.
“Really excited about the end of the week. We’ll have a practice on Thursday that will be a lot of special teams and getting ready for Saturday," said Houston, "Then Saturday we’ll be full game situations with all special teams. It’ll be a pretty good practice on Saturday so I'm pretty excited about where we're at right now.”
Coach Houston indicated that he likes how his team looks in contact drills in full gear.
"We'll strike you, that is not an issue in this program any longer, "Houston told PirateIllustrated.com, "A lot of intensity, a lot of energy and you'd better like contact if you're going to get out there in the middle of that so I'm really excited about that because that was obviously a weakness in the program when I was hired."
Houston indicated the scrimmage will involve about a hundred plays if their personal numbers depth wise will allow it.
"You cannot substitute for game experience. You look at quarterback, Holton Ahlers has a ton of game experience and he plays like it but those other quarterbacks, we have to get them a lot of work on Saturday," Houston said, "Like at the end of practice today was a live red zone period and when you go from thud to a live period it just changes everything. Everything speeds up and gets a lot hotter and that's when the experience in those situations is so valuable." We have to put ourselves in situations this Saturday because we're only going to get two opportunities now with the way the spring has gone."
Special teams play has been solid with several return men getting a look in addition to the veteran Tyler Snead.
"We've got this little guy that wears 22 that's pretty good. I think we have one of the best return guys in the league and one of the best return guys in the country," said Houston, "He's special and we're fortunate to have him. That kid embodies everything in our program that we want it to stand for. He's dynamic."
"He's so driven. He's smart, he's a perfectionist but he is such a great competitor"
"Of course you have some other guys who are pretty good back there also. Keaton Mitchell, Jai Hatfield, Malik Flemming, Juan Powell, all of those guys will get looks.
New running backs coach Chris Foster is working with the return men and Houston says he's excited to have him with his experience handling that aspect of special teams play.
Houston indicated that the work ethic and dedication of this team has continued to improve.
"Now we're at the point where academics are important, their family is important and football is important. That's not always been that way where football is important here, but this group football is important to them," Houston stated, "They love playing that's why when you guys leave there will still be guys out there on the jugs machine."