Plenty of Hoopla
Surrounding Spring Game

by Eric Gilmore

Skip Holtz both cursed and congratulated his team during their final preparation for Saturday’s annual spring football game. Holtz changed his tone throughout the final tune-up, but ended on an upswing when asked about his squad.

“I’m pleased with a lot of the positives and the ways that some of these guys have stepped up,” said Holtz. “I could go over every position and the improvements that have been made. I think this spring has been extremely productive for us.”

Holtz cited four players that have missed spring practice in Pierre Bell (LB), Marcus Hands (DE), Aundrae Allison (WR) and Chris Johnson (RB), but credited younger players with stepping up.

The second-year head coach praised first-team running back Dominique Lindsay with having an excellent spring along with outside linebacker Jeremy Chambliss. He also praised the secondary going as far as saying that he felt the most comfortable the position as any on the field.

Offensive coordinator Steve Shankweiler admitted that the coaching staff had four goals to reach offensively by the conclusion of the 15 mandated practices: find a backup quarterback, develop a center, shore up the tight end slot and find a fullback.

“With the goals that we’ve set to accomplish, I think we’re pretty much in the ball park,” Shankweiler said.

Like last year, Holtz remains uncomfortable with lack of depth along the offensive line. With only two returning starters, inexperience has translated to simple mistakes. Holtz seems tentatively pleased with Tom Wingenbach at center, Josh Coffman at guard and Terence Campbell at tackle to round out the first unit.

Behind the starters, Holtz said that ten guys are competing for five spots, but none have distinguished themselves. Hoping for a wish list of 11 would-be starters, Holtz admitted that the incoming freshmen will have a solid chance to penetrate the two-deep.

Defensively, coordinator Greg Hudson is pleased with the talent upgrades and the leadership of senior defensive end Shauntae Hunt.

“I think we’ve taken a step forward this spring,” Hudson said. “We’ve improved our size and our speed so we’re trying to utilize that to the best we’ve can. We’ve built some momentum heading into two-a-days.”

News & notes

Allison has seen limited action through the spring and will continue to be held out of contact drills. The rising senior plans to go through warm up routines, but will watch from the sideline even though he claims he’s back to 100 percent following his MCL injury in the season finale.

“I’m listening to the medical guys because they went to school and everything,” Allison said. “I’m just going to take this time to get better mentally and physically.”

Remember that Allison made waves a year ago, when he somersaulted into the end zone.

One of the most nervous players on the field come Saturday might be backup quarterback Brett Clay, who has never played publicly while in college. The redshirt freshman beat out classmate Rob Kass and rising sophomore Patrick Pinkney.

“Coming in here, I was hurt so much through high school that no one really knew what I felt like I could do,” Clay said. “To show the people… I’m excited for the opportunity.”

Running back Edwin Burke, somewhat of a spring game legend, is trying to earn a scholarship. Burke, along with Brandon Fractious, who is battling a high ankle sprain, will likely split duty on the second-team squad.
Busy weekend

The intra-squad scrimmage, which once upon a time went largely unnoticed, has turned into a weekend extravaganza. The football game is the centerpiece for the entire weekend, but with so many surrounding events, it almost seems trivial.

After a Pirate Club social last night, various companies and donors are hitting the links of Ironwood Country Club for the annual Pigskin Pig-out Party golf tournament. A night of live beach music will ensue later in the evening. While the live music is playing, 36 vendors will compete to make the best bar-b-q plate at $300 per entry.

Also, the Letterwinners Association will hold a social tonight while the Circle of Excellence will meet for dinner as well.

“Heck, it’s like the state fair has come to Greenville,” Holtz said about the amusement rides gracing the Frisbee golf field at the intersection of Charles Blvd. and Greenville Blvd. “This is not only a game, this is a weekend.”
Philanthropy events galore

Immediately following the conclusion of the scrimmage, former Pirate defensive back Kevin Monroe will host the 4th annual Pirate Gridiron Classic basketball game benefiting Future, Inc. The event will be littered with past ECU athletes.

On Sunday, the entire Greek community (fraternities and sororities) will host “Casey’s Race for the Kids” held at the Greenville Town Common. The 5k run/walk is the first unified Greek charity event of its kind and all proceeds will benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Pitt Co. Registration starts at noon and the race is slated to start at 1 pm. (Click for registration information.)

Friendly bet

Three years ago, then-ECU head coach John Thompson implemented a steak dinner served by the spring game’s losing team. Holtz contemplated having a “beans and weenies and steak type of deal,” but thought better of it.

Instead, the losing team will have to wash the winning team’s cars and any others that happen to pass by.

“I promise you, everyone on the winning team, their cars will be the first ones in line,” Holtz said smiling. “We’ll pick a charity and have a fundraising car wash.”

Holtz said that the staff tried to implement something similar last year, but a rain storm on the proposed date cancelled plans.

Eric Gilmore