PirateIllustrated - ECU Quarterbacks Assess Their Play After Saturday's Scrimmage
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ECU Quarterbacks Assess Their Play After Saturday's Scrimmage

ECU quarterback Holton Ahlers has looking increasingly solid as the month has progressed in spring practice.
ECU quarterback Holton Ahlers has looking increasingly solid as the month has progressed in spring practice. (PirateIllustrated.com photo)

Saturday's scrimmage may produce few real numbers but the competition has been growing between starter Holton Ahlers and former starter Reid Herring.

Both players have dealt with injuries from shoulders to knees and a little bit of everything in between but Ahlers and Herring hope to make for a nice one-two combo that will be dependable for the Pirates this fall.

There was good and bad with their performances on Saturday in misty conditions at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium but Ahlers hopes to pick up where he left off last season, his first under center for ECU. The former D.H. Conley star has a lot in common with new head coach Mike Houston and so far that is proving to be a benefit.

"It's been great. We have the same mindset. Tough, physical and hard nosed football. That's what Pirate football is and that's what I've grown up watching Pirate football. I'm excited about it, the team is excited about it and we're definitely buying in."

Ahlers assessed for PirateIllustrated.com his overall improvement physically after a knee injury hampered him late last season. In ten games last year, Ahlers throw for 1,785 yards and twelve touchdowns against just three interceptions. Ahlers started in just five of those games after taking over for the injured Reid Herring.

"I feel great. I'm healthy. We're trying to get some of those centers healthy - John Spellacy and those guys but I'm feeling great," Ahlers told PI on Saturday, "It's been great so far and we're having a blast out here learning the playbook and just learning the way they are - the way they operate. It's just been a blast."

The big challenge this spring is learning a brand new offense from the one ECU ran last year under the prior coaching staff.

"Every offense is a little bit different. You just have to learn new terminology and just new schemes but it's been a blast," said Ahlers, "I love coming into meetings with those guys. It's been fun but it is a little bit different."

The Pirate sophomore says things are very comfortable with new offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick who has worked on a couple of ECU coaching staffs in the past.

"It's very comfortable. I've known him my whole life. His son played baseball with my brother so I've kind of been around him my whole life. It's been great. He's a great coach and he teaches it good. We're still learning the in's and outs of the offense but other than that it's been great."

Ahlers says he's worked with the receivers all offseason three or four times a week. That group is led by senior Deondre Farrier who last year accounted for 30 catches for 372 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

"Me and Dre watch film after every practice together. He's worked hard and I think it's definitely his time to step up and be a senior leader."

Even though Reid Herring produced 1,607 yards of passing offense with six touchdowns, he shied away from running the football at times and as a result he threw ten interceptions in seven starts before being unseated by Ahlers. An auto injury then further curtailed his action. Many of those picks were when he was just trying to get rid of the football.

He has made significant strides during this spring camp.

"Coach Kirkpatrick is putting a lot in on us and we're all picking it up well. Obviously there are still a lot of things we've got to work on. It's a new offense," Herring told PI on Saturday, "We're learning it every day. But it's good to be out there working every day, we're all learning and we're all doing well."

"He's trying to keep it as simple as possible. We've got a lot of stuff but he's keeping it simple right now," said Herring, "He gives us a look into what's to come into the future for some of the dynamic stuff we have but right now he's keeping it simple so we can pick it up."

"I like it. Everybody in the quarterback room fits into it well. I think we all like it. We like what we're doing, we like the schemes, the running game as well. I think we're all handling it good."

Herring assessed his play so far with a week to go before the end of camp.

"I keep making improvements. Guys around me are making plays. The offensive line is blocking, the running backs running the ball. That always opens up the passing game. I've just got to keep getting better. My shoulder keeps getting better so that's definitely good. It feels good to be out here and being able to practice all day."