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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.