A slimmer Skip
Holtz beaded sweat when running off the practice field for the second
time on Wednesday afternoon. He had concluded the first of three
two-a-day sessions and the second two-and-a-half hour practice in pads
on Day 6 of fall camp. He bounded over to reporters with a youthful
glide and even smiled while he was prepped with a wireless mic. “I’m
getting better at his,” Holtz responded generically.
Holtz may have been referring to his on-camera presence, something his
father displays at ESPN on a national stage. Or his ability to
comfortably prep for a close-up shot as his team exits the Cliff Moore
Practice Facility. Maybe the second-year ECU head coach was referencing
his improving relationship with the media. Heck, Holtz could have been
referring to his ability to coach, which could possibly coincide with
the team’s improved talent level. What is known is that Holtz’s short
statement was ambiguous.
It could be a season slogan. Insert Holtz’ team concept by replacing
‘I’m’ with ‘we’re’ and you could find 2006’s theme. ‘We’re getting
better…’ is a cliché, but it certainly fits the bill. It
encompasses the John Thompson era, rock-bottom for a once-proud
program, while still allowing area for improvement. It also emits a
positive tone, something Holtz has branded since his arrival.
"There is a lot more athleticism on this team than we had a year ago,”
said Holtz, after Day 6. “But I keep saying that we’re a long way from
being a good football team too. When you look at the inexperienced
players, they’re still learning what to do. But at the same time, after
putting pads on, I don’t think they’re afraid to stick their nose in
If the depth chart is any indication, Holtz knows that he will have
develop the inexperience added an accelerated pace than he normally
would. With talented youngsters like Scotty Robinson and C.J. Wilson at
the defensive end slot, Holtz’s reliance on inexperience could
determine the outcome of the season. Holtz and defensive coordinator
Greg Hudson also hold the task of incorporating in six linebackers
scattered among the three-deep, which have never suited in an ECU
Holtz said at the annual media day that the coaching staff will try to
mask the inexperience with complex schemes. But the difference is that
in 2005, Holtz was hiding the lack of talent. However, Holtz seems
content with the markup in talent and seems to believe that once the
inexperience bug is kicked, talent will reign supreme.
Harnessing the talent will be a difficult task as well. Jamar Bryant is
one of the most talented receivers listed on the roster. However,
Bryant has to become acclimated to the proper techniques while still
remembering and running crisp routes. As is accustomed with first-year
players, the challenge becomes the ability to retain basic knowledge,
while still relying on athletic instincts. The repetition factor is the
reason why the veterans have such an advantage.
Even so, recruiting coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick believes that more
true freshman will be thrust into action in 2006 than did last season.
In 2005, only Jerek Hewitt and Dominique Lindsay saw time a summer
removed from high school, allowing the coaching staff to stockpile
talent with the luxury of watching the mature.
Look at the roster and the ability to redshirt so many players in 2005
will likely pay large dividends. It allowed for astronomical weight
gains under strength coach Mike Golden, while letting the player get
acquainted with the drastic change that is college life. Now Jamar
Bryant, Terence Campbell, Jeremy Chambliss, Scotty Robinson and C.J.
Wilson, all of whom litter the two-deep, are staring at four years of
eligibility. Even the non-traditional redshirts placed on Josh Coffman
and Zach Slate have provided a year’s worth of adjustment to a new
In 2006, Norman Whitley has made such a splash early that Holtz may be
hard-pressed to keep the Hamlet native off the field. Whitley doesn’t
want to redshirt, but has three capable backs are ahead of him. If
Holtz does decide to throw a redshirt on Whitley, he would separate his
running backs in terms of years, possibly allowing Whitley to become a
four-year starter. Others who have potential to suit up immediately
will be D.J. Scott and Sean Allen at offensive guard along with Willie
Smith at defensive end.
Despite the talent level, freshmen are still freshmen. Frustrated by
parent-like attitude that he is forced to take to install a blocking
scheme, offensive coordinator Steve Shankweiler knows the inexperience
will soon wear off.
“The mistakes we’re making is inexperience,” Shankweiler said. “The
freshmen, you have to tell them what to do every play but, that’s part
of it. Throw them in there and have them grow up. Every one of them I’d
sign again. They’re going to be very good players.”
However, as is often the case in the recruiting crapshoot, some of the
2006 class either didn’t make it to campus or will have to wait to don
an ECU jersey. According to Holtz on National Signing Day, he indicated
that a couple of the signees were well aware that the 25
scholarship-per-year limit would prevent them from joining the team in
fall camp. Holtz revealed on media day which signees wound up either in
a grayshirt or delayed enrollment situation.
Willie Barton, who Holtz had considered to potentially crack the
two-deep, expects to join the team Aug. 23. Barton is transferring from
Georgia Military College and has an academic snag in order to become
eligible. If he does not become eligible, he most likely will join the
category containing wide receiver Javon Brumsey and defensive back
Darryl Reynolds. Similar to Marcus Hands in 2004 and Jay Ross in 2005,
both Brumsey and Reynolds will enroll at ECU, but will not be members
of the football program. Both would still be allowed to lift with
Golden, but are forbidden from attending practices and scheduled
meetings. Both players could become eligible as soon as voluntary
workouts commence next summer.
Late signees, defensive back Travis Simmons and wide receiver Demorio
Waymon will delay their enrollment to ECU until January. Both players
qualified, but in order to gain a scholarship, both likely agreed to
wait a semester. Both Simmons and Waymon- like Johnnie McCoy in 2005-
should be eligible for spring practice. Davion Holman and Dan Wideman
appear to be academic causalities and headed to either prep school or
junior college. Wideman was considered a risk upon inking with ECU
while Holman’s situation remains unclear. Playing with either a prep
school or junior college will open up their recruitment, making the
2006 commitment null and void.