Holtz, Wilson excited about upcoming season|C-USA Media Day conducted by video conference

Published 10:07 am Friday, July 31, 2009

Sports Editor

GREENVILLE — East Carolina head coach Skip Holtz and defensive end C.J. Wilson likely are hoping that the season goes a little more smoothly than the Conference USA Media Day, conducted by video conference Thursday afternoon.
The 12 C-USA coaches and select football players from the schools gathered at each campus site for the video conference. It enabled media members to ask questions to the coaches via video feed.
Holtz and Wilson were both interrupted by buzzing noises at times, but neither let the technical interference bother them.
“I could get used to it, but I don’t want to,” Wilson said about the new format.
The video conference was used because of budgetary reasons.
“I understand the need for it,” Holtz said. “I wish we could do it the way we’ve always done it — take two players and go to a site where we could have it and have ourselves exposed to the media, and also give the media an opportunity to be exposed to every one of our opponents.
“I understand the need for budget cuts and what we’re all trying to do to tighten our belts a little bit during these tough times. It’s tough times for the universities, for the athletic departments and everybody around the country.”
The Pirates, last year’s C-USA champions, are predicted to win the East Division and compete for the title once again this year. Of 24 C-USA media members, 11 picked Houston to win the championship and 10 selected the Pirates to win it all.
“It’s a very different role,” Holtz said. “It’s flattering. It’s kind of exciting to talk about it now. We’re going to have to back it up. We played most of the season last year with a target on our chest with the way we started (which included wins over West Virginia and Virginia Tech).
“Going into this (season), I think right now we’re probably more prepared for that statement than we’ve ever been since I’ve been here. It’s going to be a challenge. Nobody has ever repeated here in Conference USA. There are some obstacles we’re going to have to overcome to be able to have the type of success that we want.”
Despite the team’s success last year, where the Pirates went 9-5 and played in the Liberty Bowl, Holtz said his players are hungry for more. He attributes much of the team’s success to a strong senior class.
“The thing that’s motivated me and excited me so much is that they haven’t become complacent,” Holtz said. “They’re working as hard or harder than they ever have. They understand what’s at stake and they understand the expectations.
“We’ve put a big part of this program on the legacy that the seniors leave from their leadership role. You look at C.J. Wilson, Jay Ross, Nick Johnson and the guys that have been in the program, they understand that this is their senior year and this is the one they’re going to remember.”
A bowl loss last year left the Pirates a bit dazed.
“Our eyes have been focused forward, not backwards,” Holtz said. “I think the Liberty Bowl (a 25-19 loss to Kentucky) went a long way in humbling us from where we were and what we’re going to have to do to take another step to overcome that hurdle a year from now.”
The Pirates open the season Sept. 5 at home against Appalachian State.
“I’m very excited to get going,” Wilson said. “We’re excited as a team.
“They’re a good team and we know that. It’s going to be a great instate battle. We’re excited to have them coming here to play us.”
Holtz knows the Mountaineers will provide a challenge to his team.
“They’ve won three out of the last four national championships, they did go to Michigan and win on the road at “the Big House” (and) they do return a senior quarterback (Armanti Edwards),” Holtz said. “They’re a very talented football team and they’ve shown that they’re capable of lining up and playing with some of the best teams in the country.
“I think it’s a phenomenal game. It’s a great game for East Carolina and it’s a great game for App State. It’s great for our fan base.”