PirateIllustrated - First Saturday: "We Got Better Today"
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First Saturday: "We Got Better Today"

Veteran East Carolina offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick presides over the Pirate offense.
Veteran East Carolina offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick presides over the Pirate offense. (PirateIllustrated.com photo)

Day two of East Carolina's fall football practice proved to be more productive for both the coaching staff and players.

The Pirates worked out in mid to late morning in hot conditions with high humidity which lends to improved conditioning.

"That was a typical East Carolina August morning this morning, so that was good. We need the heat," said ECU head coach Mike Houston, "The kids watched the film yesterday afternoon and we've got group of returners that have a lot of pride in themselves and they're hungry to get this thing going."

"They weren't pleased with our practice yesterday. Not that anyone wanted to not go out there and practice sharp. The film was what the film was and they took it very, very well," Houston said, "I thought we had a great practice. A ton of energy. Just so many huge improvements from yesterday from a lot of aspects. They really pushed themselves to practice at a much higher level. Much better pursuit, much better just pushing through, playing fast with that heat beating down on them."

Houston indicated that there was a point in practice where the team had to decide at what level they were going to proceed.

"Day two was a positive improvement on day one. I told them that no doubt we got better today and it's going to continue to be a challenge where as you're basically going to have to play yourself into shape whereas most preseasons you report in shape. Two practices in a row and that's two more than we've had any day this year. It's a good day to be a Pirate."

ECU sets up to play what appears to be a ten game slate due to the Covid19 virus changing some things. For one, the South Carolina game will not be played with the SEC playing largely a league only schedule as will the AAC with just an exception of two.

"I don't know what being bowl eligible means this year. We just want to play. Ten, eleven, nine, we just want to play. Jon is very good at his job," said Houston, "I believe and trust in him completely, so he will put together the best schedule he can for East Carolina University and we're going to play it."

Houston was asked about the prospects of maybe adding James Madison since ECU could potentially add a game to fill in a hole in the schedule.

"That would have some intrigue. A bunch of kids I recruited. I know them well. They're a real good football team."

He talked about some of the things he hopes to see improve this year in his ECU team.

"If you're talking offensively, it took us about a half a year to get going last year," Houston told PirateIllustrated.com, "The reasons for that, there's a lot of them. Holton's first full year as a starter, new offensive coordinator, learning new personnel. Us learning them, them learning us. Donnie and Holton kind of getting on the same page. Us making some adjustments about mid-season to be able to help him a little more."

"The second half of the season, we played at a really high level. Certainly we want to build on that. We all know we've got to be more efficient and effective running the football. I'd like to keep the production of the passing game that we had in the second half of the season add that dimension of being able to run the football effectively," said Houston, "Those two pieces three. In our receiving room we don't have huge numbers, but the ones we have are pretty solid players and they all have good experience. We're real pleased from a leadership standpoint in terms of our personnel."

Houston says he has a bunch of quarterbacks to work with so running multiple practices on three fields allows ECU to get their signal callers more reps.

"The negative is Donnie (Kirkpatrick) can't be with all of them so he's having to coach a lot of them on film. The thing I've seen is Holton is the Holton of last year. He has complete control of the offense and the huddle. He's a talented player who understands the offense and he looks like what you would expect. The young ones are all over the place. You've got Gagg and Flynn who have a little bit of their feet on the ground, so they're able to run the offense a little bit higher manner then you have the three freshman. You're seeing some pretty impressive things from those three."

"We're throwing more at them than they ever had in high school, so to sum it up, it's a room that has a lot of talent and is going to be highly competitive and has the depth that this program needs not just for this year but for the foreseeable future."

"Holton had an up and down day today. He made some throws where you're like wow, that is pretty impressive right there," said the second year Pirate head coach, "Then he had some moments where he just crumbled. Every snap they get is experience and they will improve."

Houston says he has an army of defensive linemen with good size but are very green. He has split things up with Byron Thweatt and Roy Tesh coaching the defensive line together in order to get a lot of fundamental individual teaching.

"I like the room, we've just got to build them and grow them up."

ECU plans to practice on Sunday with tropical weather approaching on Monday.

Houston delves into several other subjects after Saturday's second workout in the audio feed below. Stay tuned for more as coverage of the 2020 ECU fall camp continues here on PirateIllustrated.com.