Junior quarterback Gardner Minshew, passing the ball during Monday’s practice in Greenville, will lead the East Carolina offense in its annual Purple-Gold spring game Saturday in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Stephen Igoe | Special to the Times
East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery watches drills during Monday’s spring practice in Greenville.
Stephen Igoe | Special to the Times
By Stephen Igoe
Special to the Times
East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery says he can already tell a difference compared to last year at this time, but his football team will get a real test this Saturday.
Set to lead his team as the second-year skipper of the Pirates into Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for the annual Purple-Gold game at 2 p.m. this Saturday, Montgomery hopes his squad can close the spring on a high note.
ECU, which started spring practice on March 20, has already scrimmaged twice in the stadium over the past month. The offense, led by junior quarterback Gardner Minshew and senior receiver Jimmy Williams, has put on a show at times, though Montgomery is happy with the progress of both sides of the ball.
“We are starting to put together a lot of live reps,” Montgomery said. “I thought we needed to play a lot more foo tball this spring and that is exactly what we are doing and our guys are responding to it.
“Defensively we are starting to learn how to create some turnovers and offensively we are starting to be able to execute the scheme the way I want it done and the way that our coaching staff wants it done. It’s some great competition and now I feel like we are coming to an even ground as far as the competition is concerned.”
Health-wise, the Pirates have had an up-and-down spring. Starting safety Tim Irvin, a star transfer from Auburn who’s eligible to play this season after sitting out 2016, has been in and out of the lineup with a few bumps and bruises, while Wilmington native and talented wide receiver Trevon Brown suffered an upper body injury and is out indefinitely.
Freshman wide receiver Leroy Henley injured his knee as well and could miss the season.
“I would say we’re probably a B, B-plus in health,” Montgomery said. “You’d like to say you’re A-plus in health, but that means everyone is out there. We have about five or six guys out right now that we could really use on the field, but in spring, with how physical it is and the way more hitting is done than normal this time of year, it’s pretty impressive how our guys have held up.”
PIRATES ADD SIRK
While Minshew is currently locked into the starting quarterback role heading into Saturday’s spring game, the Pirates will welcome another capable signal-caller to the mix this summer.
Duke graduate transfer quarterback Thomas Sirk has committed to play his senior season at ECU and will be eligible immediately. The Florida native, who’s still attending Duke this semester, will take his official visit to campus this weekend before joining the team officially this summer.
Montgomery was Sirk’s offensive coordinator in 2015 when the quarterback had a monster junior season and led Duke to a bowl win. Sirk tore his Achilles tendon in the preseason last year and lost his starting job, and there’s some concern over his health coming to ECU.
Sirk has suffered complete tears of both Achilles during his collegiate career, and he relies on his legs as a true dual-threat quarterback. Regardless, Sirk is expected to battle with Minshew for the team’s starting gig beginning in preseason camp.
No one saw this coming.
Once ranked preseason No. 6 in the national polls, East Carolina’s baseball team finds itself well out of contention for an at-large bid and likely needing to win its conference tournament just to make the postseason.
ECU has been swept five times this season and is a paltry 0-9 in league play after three weekends of conference action. The Pirates have been swept by AAC foes UConn, Houston and UCF.
Third-year head coach Cliff Godwin became emotional after this past Saturday’s series finale versus UCF when talking about how tough the disappointing season has been on ECU’s senior-laden team.
“When you’re a senior, they’re upset and they don’t understand why,” Godwin said. “We do things the right way, like I’ve said. I know there are a lot of people out there in the public, they don’t know. They don’t know what we do. It’s hard on (the players). They don’t understand.
“We always talk about leaving a legacy and they’re worried about, ‘Is our legacy going to be tarnished now?’ So, it’s tough.”
The Pirates bounced back with a 9-5 win at UNC Wilmington on Tuesday night, improving to 18-20 on the season. They take on Cincinnati on the road this weekend.
Wilson native and sophomore outfielder Dwanya Williams-Sutton returned to the lineup after a nine-game absence in Tuesday’s win over Wilmington, going 2-for-5 with a home run.
Williams-Sutton, who played high school baseball at Hunt before finishing his prep career at Greenfield School, has struggled with a thumb injury since sliding into second base at Campbell the second week of the season.
The outfielder, who landed on three Freshman All-America teams last year, is now hitting .341 with four home runs in 11 starts.
Prior to the start of Tuesday’s game at UNC Wilmington, Godwin announced the dismissal of former closer and junior pitcher Joe Ingle.
“Our baseball program has dismissed Joe from our team,” Godwin said in a release. “We appreciate all of Joe’s hard work and wish him the best in the future.”
There was no reason given regarding Ingle’s release in the team’s statement, though sources indicate Ingle had an incident with the ECU coaching staff in the dugout during the recent UCF series. Ingle was initially suspended before later being let go from the program.
Ingle, a Stopper-of-the-Year candidate heading into 2017, struggled this season, posting a 3-3 record with a 6.86 ERA in 15 appearances out of the bullpen.
The former Freshman All-American posted 20 saves over his first two years with ECU.
Stephen Igoe is the publisher of the East Carolina 247Sports website Hoist The Colours. Check out more of his work at eastcarolina.247sports.com.