Light Bulbs Starting to Come On
by Allen Thomas

A week of storms, cold winds and rain in Greenville gave way to sunny skies Saturday.  The Pirate future football fortunes were on display in Dowdy-Ficklen and much like the weather, gave a glimpse to a brighter future ahead.  While no one is saying the Pirates are quite ready to contend for the national title just yet there is evidence under the new leadership Skip Holtz and staff the light bulb is starting to come on. 

Spring drills are always more like a laboratory. There is much to be done along a thin offensive front, the shotgun exchange needs considerable work and Josh Coffman an outstanding tight end is now learning how to be an offensive tackle.  Coaches experiment with new schemes and players experiment in new positions while dealing within the confines of depleted rosters (seniors already gone & freshmen won’t arrive till fall).  While the spring game Saturday was more for the fans it does give a glimpse of things to come.  For example it is clear that a spread attacking offense is again in ECU’s future.  Aundrae Allison at wide receiver (30 yard touchdown reception & run), a bulkier (189 lbs.) Chris Johnson as well as a handful of others are game-breakers and will make significant impacts this fall.

While there is much to be decided at quarterback, early returns indicate a healthy Davon Drew has taken quickly to Holtz’s offense and will be a force to be reckoned with this fall.  For the first time since David Garrard, opposing defenses will have to contend with game-breaking athleticism at the quarterback position, forcing teams to play account for the QB and play us  “11 on 11.” Patrick Pinkney in limited action (due to shoulder surgery recovery) substituted for steady Kort Shankweiler in the second half, was rusty but displayed great fluidity and leadership under center. It will be intriguing this fall to watch the competition as well as the “X” factor of James Pinkney’s potential return.

Defensively the Pirates were aggressive, scoring two touchdowns of over 75 yards on a Zack Baker interception return and 93 yard fumble scoop-and-score by Travis Williams.  Is this something to be expected on Saturdays this fall?  While the defensive touchdowns may be a little much to ask for each game it is obvious under Defensive Coordinator Greg Hudson a new attack style, pressure defense will be on display this fall. 

All in all, a great Saturday of football and Pirate fellowship.

Other Notables:

The Pigskin Pigout festivities also marked the return of many Pirate football standouts to the Annual Gridiron Greats Charity Basketball Game.  It’s a great event to raise money for the FUTURE organization spearheaded by Kevin Monroe and Troy Smith, funding mentoring and life skills for underprivileged kids.  Great to see the big fellas on the court displaying their skills for the home fans.  While several former Pirate griders showed glimpses of former hardwood greatness there were an equal number more in need of oxygen as the game progressed.  The Gold squad sponsored by Aldridge and Southerland came out on top of the White team, a.k.a. “The Dog Warriors” sponsored by former Strength and Conditioning Director Jeff Connors who was on hand in support of his former players.  There were a number of greats participating and in the stands, George Koonce, Mark Washington, Travis Darden, the Hart twins, Scott Harley, David Garrard, Devon Claybrooks, and dozens of other former Pirate stars.  It was a very impressive link to Pirate football history. Leonard Henry, a favorite of Pirate Radio 1250 was also on hand and relayed the good news of his recent signing with the New York Jets.  Best of luck to Leonard as he continues his NFL journey.

Great Weekend……

So all-in-all, a great weekend for the Pirate Nation.  A few sunburned cheeks and new Pirate football game jerseys courtesy of the ECU Athletic Spring Clearance Sale made the weekend complete.  The spring football gave a glimmer of things to come this fall, the past Pirate greats return to Greenville on the basketball court reconnecting with ECU tradition, and on the diamond the Pirate baseball and softball teams SWEEP Louisville in a conference “kiss good bye” to the Cards.  Nothing could be finer…. Than East Carolina in spring.  Be sure to keep the Pirate momentum in full swing this spring.  Support the Diamond Bucs Tuesday vs. UNC and Wednesday vs. NC State at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

Have a great week!

Allen Thomas