GREENVILLE, N.C. - Football season is less than a month away and with the first Friday in August comes the opening of fall camp at East Carolina.
Thursday's festivities included the players moving into Aycock Dorm on the ECU campus for camp. Then came physicals, equipment-fitting sessions, portrait photos and mandated NCAA meetings that took place prior to the first practice Friday afternoon.
East Carolina entered the Cliff Moore Practice Complex in helmets and shorts in what was the first of a pair of mandated no contact days.
The team really got after it, moving from station to station and eventually moving into team drills. Hot conditions were the rule with partly sunny skies and muggy, 90 degree temperatures. The Pirates are used to the heat working out both in the mornings and in the afternoons on various days during the spring and summer.
Plenty of enthusiasm from both the Pirate coaching staff and the players marked the first day of practice in preparation for the August 31st opener against Old Dominion. After the two hour workout was completed, Ruffin McNeill talked about the first day's work in positive terms.
"Before practice I talked to the team that things should be faster now. We've got some guys who have been around our schemes for three years," the fourth year ECU head coach said, "We expect to see a fast group. Because we've got some guys who have been through the battles that made it go smoother. There have always been high standards here. The players came here to play for championships and so did the coaches but it's not where we are in the beginning but where we are in the end. The thing to understand is the process. We are going to attack it day by day and I'm looking forward to it."
The Pirates enter the season with three top 25 votes in the initial USA Today poll and are coming off an improved 8-5 campaign in 2013. ECU won four of their last five games in a 7-1 conference season with a bowl loss in the Superdome to Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl. The team gained great experience all along the way last season in Shane Carden's first year at the helm at quarterback. Carden passed for 3,116 and 23 touchdowns in 2012. Vintavious Cooper ran for 1,048 yards and seven touchdowns. Justin Hardy is the big play man for ECU's receiving corp. Last year Hardy hauled in 88 catches for 1,105 yards and eleven touchdowns for the Pirates.
"It was a normal first day, a lot of anxiousness and excitement. We attacked it with conditioning this moring and I liked the way we attacked that. The guys have worked very hard all summer with Jeff Connors. I thought the skill guys, executino guys did a good job fighting there way through it and picking it up. It's always slow the first day. We were in jerseys today and not much could be done but things went smooth," McNeill said, "Matt Milner will not be playing this year. We'll miss Matt Milner (who has graduated). He had two hip surgeries over the spring. Matt's one of the toughest hombres I know. I've had one hip surgery and Matt's had two and he's a lot younger and good lookning than I am but he'll still be involved. Tristan Mumford has withdrawn from school, we wish Tristan all the best. Jabril is still working through some scenarios as well as some other kids. I'll address that pretty soon."
Inside receiver Justin Jones was absent from First Friday workouts as he waits for an eligility decision for the fall.
Catch Coach McNeill's comments here on PI-TV as well as practice video, PI First Photos and more. Stay tuned for more from East Carolina from Media Day on Saturday as PirateIllustrated.com coverage of the 2013 fall football camp continues.