Spring Football Notebook No. 10
Stingy Redzone Defensive Effort, Big-Play Offense Featured In Physical First Spring Scrimmage
GREENVILLE, N.C. – Big plays on the offensive side of the ball and a pursuing, physical defense were all featured at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Saturday afternoon during East Carolina’s first scrimmage of the spring practice period.
The controlled contest, which featured game officials and was played in comfortable 65-degree temperatures under sunny skies, consisted of 15 eight-play possessions that involved all levels of ECU’s personnel roster.
â€œI thought today went very well,” fifth-year head coach Skip Holtz said. “Anytime you can go through a scrimmage like this and come out healthy, it is huge. We went about 120 plays and gave the ones and twos more opportunities than I thought we would. One of the only negatives that I saw, however, was the ball being on the ground too much. We need to do a better job of protecting the football on offense and limiting the big plays on defense. Overall, the effort was great, the hitting was good and the guys were very competitive. Now we have to grade the scrimmage and start evaluating things from an individual standpoint.â€
The Pirates’ defense tallied eight tackles for lost yardage, allowing just 2.6 rushing yards and 3.9 overall yards per attempt during the afternoon. Offensively, ECU recorded six plays that gained 20 or more yards but were held to just one score in three redzone visits – a two-yard run by senior Darnell Ballard during the latter half of the contest.
Sophomore safety Julian Carter led all tacklers with 14 stops, while redshirt freshman tackle Allen Crowder and sophomore end Maurice Mercer spent a significant part of the contest in the offensive backfield. The duo combined on another 14 tackles, five of which resulted in lost yardage and included a pair of sacks. The Pirate defense also forced two turnovers, one coming on sophomore safety’s Devon Wallace’s interception and the other on junior tackle Linval Joseph’s fumble recovery to halt a drive inside the 10-yard line.
Seniors Patrick Pinkney and Rob Kass guided the Pirates’ top two offensive units, while redshirt freshman Josh Jordan also experienced action during the various series’ that included a total of 13 ball-carriers and 12 pass-catchers.
Ballard, along with sophomore transfer Brandon Jackson and senior J.R. Rogers, keyed the East Carolina rushing attack at the tailback position, combining for 116 of the Pirates’ 191 total ground yards while sharing time in the backfield of the Pirates’ No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 squads. Rogers rushed for a scrimmage-long 25-yarder on the first play of the contest while Jackson broke off a 20-yard run midway through the scrimmage before producing a highlight-reel block two series later. Although he rushed for 31 yards on 10 carries during action with the No. 3 unit, Ballard’s ball-protecting effort drew most of Holtz’ praise.
“I was really impressed with Darnell Ballard,” Holtz explained. “I thought he ran hard and physical, and another positive is that he protected the ball very well.â€
Pinkney recorded three completions over 30 yards, connecting with sophomore wide receivers Darryl Freeney and Michael Bowman for 31-yarders before hooking up with Freeney again on a 33-yard play during the No. 1 unit’s last possession – a drive that moved inside the five-yard line before ECU’s defense stiffened. Kass enjoyed a strong finish, completing four of his last five passes for 37 yards and rushing for 14 more on his last two carries. In all, Pirate quarterbacks completed 25-of-44 passes for 264 yards.
â€œI was really excited going into today and I am anxious to bring this football team together,” Holtz added. “I would have loved to go 40 more plays today but I know that we have two more scrimmages and some more full-pad practices. We will probably release an initial depth chart early next week but our ones and twos are pretty much defined at this point. Players are really starting to separate themselves and get their names into the mix. Of course, we will know even more after the second scrimmage on Wednesday.â€
East Carolina will open its fourth week of spring work Monday with a shorts-only session beginning at 4:00 p.m. on Hight Field inside the Cliff Moore Practice Complex.
EAST CAROLINA’S 2009 SPRING PRACTICE SCHEDULE
Next Workout: Monday, April 6
Remaining Workouts: April 8 (scrimmage), April 13, April 15 and April 18 (Purple-Gold Game, 3:00 p.m.)
Assistant AD/Media Relations