GREENVILLE, N.C. — Below is the seventh of 10 spring practice “Q&A” segments – today’s edition features new running backs coach Chris Foster, returning freshmen Rahjai Harris and Keaton Mitchell. Click the video to hear from head coach Mike Houston
Q: How has the transition to ECU been for you so far, both from a personal and football perspective?
A: It has been awesome. I’m working with a great group of coaches. Also, these young men who come out here and work every day makes my job easier. It has made my transition very smooth. I am a country boy, so the town kind of fits me just right on a personal level, so I am enjoying it.
Q: What were the things that attracted you to Pirate Football and Greenville?
A: Well, first off, it is a great opportunity. I know Coach Houston and have watched how he has been successful. So, I wanted to be a part of that, and again, it is just such a great opportunity. I felt like this was a great move for my career to grow and learn from a group of men, so I took advantage of the opportunity. I am thankful for it.
Q: What have been the key messaging points in your room this spring?
A: The biggest thing I have been harping on the guys is that I want them to become students the game. They have a lot of tools, are talented and have a great skill set. But the biggest thing is to become students of the game so they know how to utilize the tools they have. To me, we have been learning the game a little bit this spring. Another thing we’ve talked about is what they did not do, and that is ball security. So, we have been harping on ball security, on top of becoming better blockers as well.
Q: Your top two rushers are returning freshmen – how do you build on the success they enjoyed last year and take them to a higher level?
A: Challenge them every day. I let them know to never become content, because once you become content, you stop growing and stop getting better. Every day I challenge them to push each other to be the best that they can be. The thing about it, is that they make it easy for me because they are very humble and they are group of men who want to get better. Every day they ask questions and after practice they go watch film. They will text me “hey Coach, how can I do better at this?” So, when you have a great group of men who are really hungry, who want it themselves, are self-determined and self-driven, it makes it easier for me. I will continue to challenge and push them every day.
Q: How much does your coaching change moving from a triple option offense (Georgia Southern) to more a pro-style version here?
A: It really has not changed – football is football. In the triple they are pitching it and here we throw it as far as RPOs, bubbles and things like that are concerned. It is similar as far as the concepts, but just different terminology and how you do it. That has been the biggest change and transition from offenses (terminology), but the game of football is football.
Q: What excites you most about coaching and competing in the American Athletic Conference?
A: It is an unbelievable conference. It is a miniature SEC where you have to come to play week in and week out. You have to be ready to play because every team is very competitive. I like that competitive nature of the conference. It is right there with the Power 5, in fact, knocking at the door of it. To me, I would even name it a top five conference, so I am excited be a part of it.
Q: First things first … was No. 47 your first choice? If so, why did you pick a number unusually high (and rare) for the type of back you are?
A: I have been wearing 47 since my ninth-grade year in high school. The reason I got it was because it is the number my pops wore. I just wanted to finish what we started.
Q: What attracted you to ECU during a recruiting process that involved so many other schools?
A: Coach Houston. That is all I’ve got to say. Great coach, great leader. When I committed, I said I wanted to be around family and he has made me feel like family.
Q: You’ve had limited action so far this spring, but how has Coach Foster already impacted the RB room?
A: He has just gotten us smarter. He lifts us up when we are down and keeps us going when we are tired.
Q: What are your personal and team goals heading into the fall and 2021 season?
A: Bowl game. I want to win, I want to win, I want to win. Bowl game!
Q: What adjustments did you have to make last year (to earn AAC Rookie-of-the-Year honors just one season removed from high school)?
A: I just have to practice hard every day. If you come out here and don’t practice hard one day, you get replaced. So again, practicing hard every day is non-negotiable.
Q: Who are some of the NFL or other college backs you follow and enjoying watching play? Why?
A: I watch Travis Etienne. I like his speed and acceleration out of the hole. Derrick Henry down the stretch. Just people like that to keep my motivated.”
Q: What did you learn most from your first year, playing a significant role with nearly 100 carries as a true freshman?
A: I know the game is faster than in high school. So, I had to work and practice to get better and better in the weight room too.
Q: What are some of the things you’ve focused on this spring from a personal development standpoint?
A: Besides getting stronger in the weight room, I have to learn the defense and how it is supposed to be run from an offensive standpoint.
Q: What are your early impressions of Coach Foster and how he can help elevate your skills?
A: When he came in, he immediately taught us the defense. I expect him to continue to help me learn (the defense) more so I can get a feel for it.
Q: Do you have certain team and personal goals in place already for 2021? What are those?
A: The goal is to be better than last year. We are going to work to try to get 1,000 yards. As a team, just continue to build as a family and get closer together.
Q: You won four-straight HS championships and went 54-2 during your career – how was that winning culture established and maintained?
A: It is just a mindset. You have to put in the work at practice, the weight room and just have to build as a team.
Q: How has your dad (Anthony), an eight-year NFL veteran and current high school coach, impacted your development? BTW, have you had the chance to wear his Ravens’ Super Bowl ring?
A: He has pushed me since I was little. He still pushes me, but he inspires me a lot as well. I want to be in the NFL, just like him. And yes, I did (wear the ring)!