GREENVILLE, N.C. – The ECU Pirates, under the direction of third-year head football coach Scottie Montgomery, opened the spring practice period with their first official workout late Monday afternoon on Hight Field inside the Cliff Moore Practice Complex.
Montgomery guided his squad through a crisp fundamentals-oriented 105-minute practice, the first of 15 scheduled sessions which will culminate with the playing of the Purple-Gold Spring Game on March 24 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
“It was a great first day and we got a lot of work in,” Montgomery said. “Overall, I liked what I saw today from all sides of the ball and we will have to keep stacking good practices on top of one another. That’s the goal, which is to get better and make your teammates better.”
The Pirates return five starters on offense, seven on the defensive side of the ball and welcome back a total of 41 lettermen off a team which recorded an overall mark of 3-9 last season. Offensively, ECU opened spring drills with a pair of openings each on the offensive line and at wide receiver, along with a vacancy at quarterback and at the tight end position. On defense, ECU lost starters at end, linebacker and both safety slots. Additionally, two members of the Pirates’ special teams squad – punter Austin Barnes and short snapper Colton Oliver – must be replaced.
Topping the list of 2018 offensive returnees are senior guard Garrett McGhin (22 career starts), sophomore center John Spellacy and senior receiver Trevon Brown. Brown, who was the Pirates’ leading pass catcher with 60 receptions for 1,069 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago, already ranks fifth on the school’s career receiving yardage list with 1,829.
New coordinator David Blackwell’s defense features a front line that brings back three of its four starters in junior tackles Jalen Price and Alex Turner, along with junior end Kendall Futrell. Nickelback Devon Sutton (ECU’s third-leading tackler with 68 in 2017) and cornerback Colby Gore, who owns the most career starts among all returning defenders with 18, are also juniors and expected to provide the secondary with experience.
“We are going to play hard, I can tell you that,” Montgomery added. “We had a lot of energy out there today, which is something Coach Blackwell has brought to the program since he stepped on campus in December. Our practice habits were good, but we didn’t have shoulder pads on. We will find out more when it’s not 60 degrees and we’re practicing in pads.”
ECU will spend its first two “acclimation” practice sessions in shorts and helmets before progressing to shells Friday.
Three players are expected to miss the entire spring workout period because of injuries and subsequent rehabilitation efforts – senior LB Cannon Gibbs, redshirt freshman WR Blake Proehl and junior TE Eric Weber … Gibbs was among the Pirates’ top five stoppers last season after tallying 50 tackles (21 solo) … Sophomore Reid Herring owns the most experience (two games) among the quartet of quarterbacks on the Pirates’ spring roster, which includes redshirt freshmen Kingsley Ifedi and Caiden Norman along with true freshman Holton Ahlers (enrolled at ECU in January) … In addition to Ahlers, nine other early enrollees participated in their first ECU practice Monday – DB Myles Berry, DB Nolan Johnson, DL Chandler Medeiros, OL Donovan Noel, DB Jaren Rainey, DB Warren Saba, LB Xavier Smith, OL Peyton Winstead and DB Michael Witherspoon … Monday’s practice was also the first for five coaches who joined Montgomery’s staff during the off-season – Blackwell, Kirk Doll (special teams coordinator), Don Mahoney (offensive line), Daric Riley (safeties) and Rodrique Wright (defensive line).
ECU’S 2018 SPRING PRACTICE SCHEDULE
Next Workout: Wednesday, February 21 (4:30 p.m.-6:15 p.m.)
Remaining Workouts: February 23, February 24, February 26, February 28, March 1, March 12, March 14, March 16, March 17 (scrimmage), March 19, March 21, March 23, March 24 (Purple-Gold Game, 1:00 p.m.)