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East Carolina is only a week into spring football practice, but things are beginning to become a bit more clear at the quarterback position.
Sophomore Reid Herring has seemingly taken the initial lead over redshirt freshman Kingsley Ifedi and true freshman Holton Ahlers for the Pirates, who opened spring drills on Feb. 19 and have now practiced six times since.
Herring, due to his experience, opened practice as the frontrunner following the departure of senior and projected starter Gardner Minshew. The Raleigh native and Millbrook High School product connected on 6-of-8 passing attempts for 93 yards and two touchdowns in ECU’s “full-go” team-on-team unofficial scrimmage this past Saturday.
In the same outing, Ahlers went 1-of-5 and Ifedi didn’t attempt a pass.
“All the quarterbacks are doing well with where they’re at,” offensive coordinator Tony Petersen said. “Reid’s playing like I expect a guy to be playing after he’s been here for two years. He’s really progressed a long way. He’s making good decisions with the ball. He’s probably a little bit ahead right now.”
While Ahlers is still coming along from a passing perspective, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound dual-threat quarterback has already shown off his legs.
“Today was the first time we got to see some quarterback draws we put in and some different quarterback runs from it,” head coach Scottie Montgomery said on Monday. “He’s now in his pads and you can see he loves doing that. So he and Kingsley had some big spots because of the runs.”
BLACKWELL’S HIGH EXPECTATIONS
While plenty of Pirate fans may be fixated on last year’s historically-bad defensive performance, new coordinator David Blackwell couldn’t care less.
The former Pirate football player, who was a part of the 1992 Peach Bowl team and later was a student assistant coach under Steve Logan, said as camp opened he isn’t going to let the past hold his expectations down.
ECU ranked dead last in scoring defense (45.0) and total defense (541.7 yards) at the FBS level last season.
“It’s not going to happen overnight, I’m not unrealistic,” Blackwell said. “But I have very high expectations. I’m not going to lower my expectations because of what’s happened in the past. That was last year and the year before and whenever the heck it was. This is a new year and a new team and we’re going to compete and we’re going to play and see where we can get to.”
When asked about his thoughts on the personnel returning on defense, the former Jacksonville State co-defensive coordinator responded by saying he isn’t judging any player on the team based off previous years’ performances.
“With a new staff coming in, and I told our assistant coaches that I don’t want to judge these guys off the past,” Blackwell said. “I don’t know what they’ve been coached to do. It’s not my job and it’s irrelevant. I don’t want any preconceived notions about them as players. If you truly tell someone they’ve got a fresh start, then you can’t have an attitude about them coming in. So I didn’t watch any of last year’s game.
“I focused on them this year. I watched them in workouts, I’ve been with them in meetings and now we’ve got a few days of practice under our belts and I’ve been very pleased with us.”
Along with Blackwell, ECU hired two other new coaches on the defensive side of the ball — defensive line coach Rodrique Wright and safeties coach Daric Riley.
Brandon Lynch, who was previously the team’s defensive backs coach, has shifted to cornerbacks.
PIRATES ENTER TOP 25
An NCAA tournament spot can’t be locked up just two weeks into a 56-game season, but ECU’s baseball team made an early statement over the weekend when it took two-of-three from top 10 North Carolina.
The Pirates and Tar Heels, who traditionally meet for single-game mid-week affairs, played a unique three-game traveling series that featured contests in Greenville, Durham and Chapel Hill. ECU was victorious 2-1 at home on Friday before falling 5-4 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Saturday.
The series concluded with a surprising 12-0 beatdown by ECU in game 3 at UNC’s Boshamer Stadium, a performance that lifted ECU into three different college baseball polls, including a ranking as high as No. 18 by D1Baseball.com.
“I thought our guys played really well,” head coach Cliff Godwin said after Sunday’s game. “Our mantra has been be where your feet are and I want the kids to enjoy it and they’ve earned it. This was a big win, but it’s one game.
“I thought (the series) was good for college baseball. I don’t know if you can get anything more compared to Friday and Saturday. It was as good a two college baseball games as you can draw up in front of big crowds. It was really neat.”
The three games drew a total of 12,815 fans.
ECU got stellar starting pitching performances over the weekend from Trey Benton (6 IP, 11 SO, 0 BB, 0 R) and Chris Holba (7 IP, 8 SO, 2 BB, 0 R), both of whom earned wins for their outings.
The Pirates followed up their series win with more success on Wednesday, defeating Old Dominion 10-3 in midweek action to improve to 7-1 overall.
Wilson native and Greenfield School product Dwanya Williams-Sutton, who tweaked his wrist last week, started against the Monarchs but was lifted after a first-inning single as a precaution. Godwin said following the game Williams-Sutton is dealing with a sore wrist.
Former Wilson American Legion Post 13 standout Spencer Brickhouse hit a three-run home run in Saturday’s contest against the Tar Heels. He’s batting just above .300 with a team-high three homers and 11 RBIs.
The Pirates will host their annual Keith LeClair Classic tournament this weekend, taking on Pepperdine, Missouri State and Saint Joseph’s inside Clark-LeClair Stadium.