Smith likes Pirates depthPublished 9:04pm Tuesday, March 26, 2013
GREENVILLE — Whether or not the talent level is as high as when Rick Smith was here the last time is yet to be seen, but East Carolina’s first-year defensive coordinator felt confident about his unit’s depth.
Smith previously served as the Pirates defensive backs coach from 2005-09, with ECU winning back-to-back Conference USA championships in his final two seasons.
Those title-winning teams were powered by an elite front four that featured future Super Bowl champions C.J. Wilson and Linval Joseph, along with fellow NFLer Jay Ross.
On Monday, Smith held his first official practice session with the Pirates and liked what he saw, for the most part.
“The athletic ability here overall I think is better than when I was here before. I’m just worried about the corner position,” Smith said. “I feel like we have defensive ends. When we were here before we lost a couple of defensive ends that last year and we had to take a freshman linebacker like Marke Powell and make him a defensive end. … I feel like we’re better at defensive end. We have more depth and more size.
“At defensive tackle we probably don’t have a Linval Joseph or a Jay Ross, but the only guy we had that we really trusted (to back them up) was Josh Smith. We really played just three tackles. … We have more depth on the D-line than when I was here before.”
East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill concurred and cited the front seven as the team’s strength during a press conference on Monday.
How McNeill and Smith use that strength will be interesting. In Smith’s previous stint with the Pirates the team primarily ran a 4-3. However, ECU’s current players have been recruited for, and built to play, a 3-4, which the Pirates have run for the past two seasons.
Smith, who has 32 years of college football experience, has coached 3-4 and 4-3 defenses and plans on using both this season.
“I really liked part of (last year’s) package. I think we’re going to add to that package and make it harder to figure out what we’re doing,” Smith said.
As for what the Pirates are doing long term? That is an unknown. East Carolina could be using its hybrid 4-3/3-4 system this year as a bridge to a full 4-3 next season. When asked about that, Smith politely declined to speculate.