PirateIllustrated - Heat Was a Factor On Day One For ECU As Fall Camp Begins
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Heat Was a Factor On Day One For ECU As Fall Camp Begins

ECU offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick works with his quarterbacks in Friday's first full practice.
ECU offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick works with his quarterbacks in Friday's first full practice. (PirateIllustrated.com photo)

It was a perfect weather day to begin the Mike Houston football era at ECU on Friday with the team’s first full team practice of the 2019 season.

Relatively cool conditions at the first of practice gave way to a little more heat in the high 80’s by the end of the session. The heat got to a couple of players and that got Houston’s attention.

“God was good to us today. He brought the sun out. It was supposed to be overcast. We need the heat. It was a very challenging practice. It was probably something the older guys were not ready for. Of course the freshmen aren’t ready for it. They’re freshmen. It was something that was good for us and we’ve got to learn how to handle it.”

“We had a few guys who could handle it well and we had some that couldn’t handle it. The thing they’ve got to understand is tomorrow is going to be a tougher practice than it was today and we’re either going to ascend or we’re going to descend, so we’ve got to figure it out between now and then,” Houston said, “But there ain’t going to be any tapping out, there ain’t going to be any not practicing and then playing. All of those habits that have been here the last several years, they ain’t going to be here and they’ve got to understand that. At the end, it was day one and we hope to have a better day two.”

“I thought some of the young kids stood out. Especially some of the freshmen that were with us in the spring. Jaquan McMillan, Juan Powell competed very well. It was great to see (center) John Spellacy out there today and I thought he had a really great practice for a guy who hasn’t taken a snap since the middle of last year,” Houston stated, “He was moving around good, his snaps were crisp and he looked to be excited to be out there. Having he and Peyton (Winstead) back out there plus Trent a young guy from Pa., now you have several guys you can rotate in there and some guys who can play at the guard spot.”

“Some of the younger kids probably looked better than the older kids,” said the first year ECU head coach, “Negatively, I was disappointed in how some of the older kids succumbed to the heat.”

The Pirates did have Elizabeth City freshman defensive end Traveon Freshwater in practice on Friday, but it remains to as to be seen whether he will be eligible to dress fall or have to redshirt this season. Houston says, ECU is still working through his eligibility status and right now he’s eligible to practice.

“What a great kid. He’s been working very hard to take care of his business to make sure he could be here with us. There is a lot of people here who have worked very, very hard to ensure that he is here with us so we’re just happy to have us on our roster. Today was his first day with us so he’s kind of drinking out of a fire hydrant right now but it’s good to have him in the program and we look forward to having him here the next several years. He’s eligible to work out with us and we’re working everything else through the NCAA.”

Morning workouts for the first three weeks should help keep the team at least a little more fresh four weeks from now before the team moves to an afternoon regiment when the season begins.

The team did show ample intensity as they went through a two-hour workout at Hight Field. The day consisted of a ton of individual and team drills designed to get them ready fundamentally for the task ahead. That will continue be the case as they move through the first few practices before ramping things up more when they put on the full pads.

A lot of the initial work was done in the spring and summer in terms of picking up the new schemes and terminology and learning what Houston and his staff expects. That has set this group up well for fall camp. Before long, legitimate depth charts will begin to emerge and we will know more of what to fully expect when the Pirates hit the field at the end of the month in Raleigh against N.C. State.

“l thought that part was positive in that we were able to function within our scheme. How many busts we had, we’ll see when we see the film,” said Houston, “But you’re not having to teach so much on the run in practice. They know the X’s and O’s right now. The young kids don’t but that’s okay. You expect that but the old kids have a pretty good grasp of our scheme. We walked through some new things that we didn’t get to in the spring and we’re going to be doing that for the first two weeks.”

Holton Ahlers and Reid Herring looked sharp throwing the football to a bevy of Pirate receivers while Darius Pinnix and Hussein Howe continued to do what they do best, running the football. New offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick is no stranger to those familiar with ECU football and he watched over the offense with a keen eye on Friday.

Defensively, new coordinator Bob Trott is getting his unit ready and everyone looked fired up overall on that end of the field. One of the big keys this year will be how well the secondary can cover receivers and how much pressure the Pirates can exert up front on the quarterback. It shouldn’t be long before we begin to get answers to those questions as well.

Houston talked about what he hopes to see from his team on Saturday in day two of this year’s ECU fall camp.

“I want to see us come out with high energy and high enthusiasm which we started that today but when that sun starts beating down on you and your body starts succumbing to the heat, you can’t just quit. I told them that I’d rather have three hard reps and sub out than to watch you walk through six,” said Houston.

“When you’re on that field there is going to be an expectation for how hard you play, how you compete, how you’re positively interacting with your teammates because when we get into a hot game on August 31st at 12 o’clock and all of the sudden, you get tired and we bust a coverage. That’s how you give up a big play. We’ve got to handle the heat better, we’ve got to finish better and we’ve got to have better leadership from some of our older players.”