Pirates Ready to Start Spring Practice

by Eric Gilmore

Skip Holtz spent last spring adjusting to his new office while trying to recite players’ names. He was relocating his family while dealing with a quarterback drama. In year two, Holtz plans for things to run more smoothly.

“We don’t have to put the names on their helmets so it’s not hey 82, come here,” laughed Holtz, about the differences between last season and this. “We actually know these guys a little bit more now. You’re going out there with a much more advanced agenda. Last year, we took almost all spring to put everything in. This year, you can almost roll the balls out there. You can say ‘okay, we’re going to put in half the offense in day one and half the offense in day two’ because they know what to do. We’re not going to be teaching what to do, we’re going to be teaching how to do it.”

All kidding aside, Holtz has plenty of business items to cover during the NCAA sanctioned 15 practices. He and his coaching staff must fill holes on the offensive line, at fullback, tight end and linebacker. Holtz must also juggle the newest recruits, nagging injuries while overseeing fierce position battles.


Yanowsky hired

Holtz announced an addition to his coaching staff by the hiring Don Yanowsky as tight ends/special teams coach. Yanowsky, who coached at ECU during 2000-2001, most recently served on the Duke staff for three years. Yanowsky was the defensive line coach during his previous stint with ECU. He replaces Greg McMahon, who left to become the assistant special teams coach for the New Orleans Saints.

“Gosh, there’s a lot of reasons,” said a soft spoken Yanowsky about deciding to return ECU. “The history here is one where you can win games. But more importantly for your quality of life as an assistant coach, it’s not as much where as it is who you work for.”

Holtz interviewed four candidates ultimately deciding on the 20-year coaching veteran. Holtz wanted someone with special teams experience and who would fit in the system. Yanowsky’s previous friendship with offensive coordinator Steve Shankweiler helped cement the relationship between Yanowsky and Holtz.

“[Coach Holtz] is a veteran proven winner,” Yanowsky said. “Not only as a football coach, but as a husband and father. All of the things that I aspire to be and that I want in my life.”


Position changes

As was the case last season, several players will change positions. While some made minor changes, a few switched sides of the ball. Fred Hicks, who played defensive tackle for two seasons, will move over to audition for the center slot.

Two former quarterbacks, Kort Shankweiler and Pat Dosh, will move to fullback. Shankweiler moves back to fullback, a position he played two seasons ago while Dosh will be used as more of an H-back. Holtz revealed that Davon Drew is up to 242 pounds after transitioning from quarterback to tight end. Jerek Hewitt will rejoin the defense at the corner slot that he was recruited at.

Smaller changes include J.J. Millbrook moving from safety to corner. Thomas Wingenbach will also try to audition for the open center slot.


Position battles

Center- The center position voided by Gary Freeman’s departure is wide open as former defensive tackle Fred Hicks moves across the ball, senior Thomas Wingenbach, and grayshirt Larry Lease are in contention. Last season’s backup center, Drew Sutton won’t make it back until the fall.


Linebacker- JUCO Danny Muhwezi, Orlando Farrow and Fred Wilson will compete with juniors Durwin Lamb and Quentin Cotton. Sophomores Jarrett Wiggins and Zach Slate are also in the mix along with redshirt freshman Jeremy Chambliss.


Cornerback- Kasey Ross has one side locked up. But the other side will see senior Markeith McQueen, junior Travis Williams and sophomores J.J. Millbrook, Stacy Walls and Jerek Hewitt battle it out.


Spring surprises

Aundrae Allison and Pierre Bell were the spring surprises from last season. No one imagined that either player would progress in such a short time. Though this is slightly above a hunch, don’t be surprised if wide receiver Kyle Johnson and defensive end Scotty Robinson impress their respective coaches throughout the spring. Also, watch out for walk-on redshirt freshman cornerback Ronald Wright to contend for playing time. As has been standard, walk-on junior running back Edwin Burke will hustle his tail off during intrasquad scrimmages.


Kudos to Holtz

Holtz reluctantly made spring practice open to the media. Sorry public, you’re still in the dark. But instead of the media watching the team stretch for the opening 30 minutes and practice in secret, the media types will be granted full access. This in turn will armor the fans with more up to date information.

Eric Gilmore