ECU football returns to spring practices; Q&A No. 4: DE/OLB

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GREENVILLE, N.C. — East Carolina returned to its spring workout schedule at the Cliff Moore Practice Complex Tuesday, ending a 10-day on-field layoff due to a COVID-19 related pause.

Because of the interruption, third-year head coach Mike Houston elected to conduct the 90-minute session in shorts and helmets (after the Pirates completed three full-pad practices on March 23, 25 and 27). Despite Tuesday’s announcement that ECU would not hold a traditional Purple-Gold Spring Game this year, the Pirates do have two full intra-squad scrimmages remaining on their spring docket currently set for April 17 and 24.

Post-practice comments from Houston: “It looked like we’ve been off for 10 days, but the ‘want-to’ was good … I’m not going to sit here and tell those kids you have to get vaccinated in order to play here, but I am strongly encouraging them to get the vaccine to protect themselves, their family, protect us and to eliminate this because if we want to do the things we want to do this year as a team in the fall, then we have to eradicate the virus from our program … It was a little bit of a challenge today (with the number of players still out), but the good thing is that we have good depth going into the spring so we’re able to put two solid units out there going against each other – we practiced, we functioned and it was fast-paced.”

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Below is the fourth of 10 spring practice “Q&A” segments – today’s edition features defensive ends/outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Tim Daoust, sophomore OLB Jeremy Lewis and freshman OLB Chad Stephens.

TIM DAOUST
Q: What are your early impressions of ECU, Pirate Football and the Greenville community?
A: The football aspect of it. As soon as we hit winter runs, we transitioned to spring football. Also, how our kids compete. Whatever the drill is, put the ball down – whether it’s three on three, one on one or tire pulls – they compete to the point where you have to pull them off of each other, which is a tremendous thing to have for a coach. Greenville for me is “East Carolinaville.” Everywhere you go is purple and gold, it’s Pirates. It has been awesome for my kids – I told them it would be a great place and exciting. Once they got their feet on the ground, it was everything I told them it would be. So, I am excited for the fall.

Q: Given your FBS experience in the Big East, ACC and MAC, what attracted you to this particular position?
A: For me, no matter where I work, my success and joys in life have been associated with people. I met Coach Houston a couple years ago and walked away thoroughly impressed. I thought we aligned who we are as people. It has worked out that way since I have been here. I came here because of Coach Houston and saw what he was building here last fall, and I am excited to help contribute.

Q: Your last defense at SHSU led the nation in rush defense and 3rd down percentage – what are keys for success in those two critical areas?
A: The same things we do here at ECU – winning up front. Having a dominate and great defense starts up front, having a great run defense. If you talk to an offensive coach, creating penetration between whichever gap and crazy schemes creates problems (for an offense).

Q: How is the on-field transition going with your unit in your first ECU spring practice period?
A: You know we are a young group with a good number of guys who played without a spring or summer camp last year. So, it is a transition of them getting used to me. We are going to set a new standard for the room, our defense and ECU Football. It is exciting because they are a great group of kids with big eyes who are eager to learn. I am anxious to get practices in and build that foundation.

Q: What is your M.O. as a coach, in other words, what do you continually emphasize to your players?
A: Competing, competing and competing. I will always stay on top of them to be the best version of themselves every single day. Whatever we are doing, I just need the best version of them, and we will be alright.

Q: Can you explain the difference in objectives/roles for the OLBs and DEs in ECU’s scheme?
A: The difference between the two positions is that the rush is a pretty defensive end who we let stand up on two feet. There are certain plays where he is a true defensive end and setting the edge of the defense. Then, in some of our more exotic things, he is a more athletic version of a defensive end where we do back him up off the line and ask him to be a true linebacker. So, there are times when he’s up on the line getting his nose dirty and other times when he has the athletic ability to play in space. Other than that, they are very, very similar positions.

JEREMY LEWIS
Q: Tell us what excites you the most about moving from offense to defense, and why?
A: Probably the energy that is on the defensive side of the ball. It is something that I always thought I should be, an outside linebacker. Now I am finally doing it and having more fun and more love for the game.

Q: What do you think you’ll miss most about not playing tight end?
A: I will miss my boys in the tight end room the most. Being with them laughing, joking and playing around with the guys.

Q: You haven’t played defense since high school, so how has the transition been this spring so far with Coach Daoust?
A: Coach Daoust is an amazing coach. It has actually been way easier than playing tight end. I feel more fluent and feel like I belong on the defensive side of the ball more than the offensive side of the ball.

Q: What has been the most challenging part of learning a new position?
A: The most challenging part for me is the difference in the footwork. As a tight end, I had to pass block and have quick and steady feet. With the defense, I just run through everything.

Q: Have you gotten any encouragement or advice from Kiante (Anderson, brother who was a DE at ECU in 2016-17)?
A: I have gotten a lot of advice from my big brother. A lot of mechanics, hand placement, footwork. Also spinning my knees and stuff like that. Just good tools to make me a better player.

Q: Many leave their hometown to attend college and play sports – why did you choose to stay home and play for the Pirates?
A: I chose to stay home mostly because my brother was here. He always told me about the environment and good coaching. So, my family and brother encouraged me to stay here because of those two things. Also, nothing beats home.

CHAD STEPHENS
Q: What are some of your objectives and goals this spring from a personal perspective?
A: My goal this spring is to adjust to the new way we are playing the rush position. Just to work hard every day and show Coach Daoust that I can do what he asks and get the job done.

Q: How has the arrival of Coach Daoust helped your growth and development so far?
A: His arrival has been a great thing for me. He is a great football coach, but he wants you to focus on off the field stuff as well as on the field. He is always concerned with your personal life, how you are doing in school – he just an overall good guy.

Q: What were the most important things you learned last year, your first on the two-deep (which included a start vs. Navy)?
A: I would say discipline. Navy is very disciplined. All year, Coach Harrel and my old coach would sit down with me and go over the Navy scheme and show me how discipline will win the game.

Q: You were successful on both sides of the ball in high school, so what do you miss most about playing offense (RB)?
A: Probably the physicality of it. I like running through the tackles, and I miss that a lot.

Q: As a sports studies major, what are your aspirations after football?
A: I want to do something withing physical therapy, hopefully start my own practice one day. I think that would be very cool.

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