Pirates don pads at practice|Harris named to Biletnikoff list

Published 9:59 am Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sports Writer

GREENVILLE — The Pirates donned full gear for the first time this summer as first-year coach Ruffin McNeill wasted no time putting the players into action.
“From the second drill (we were dedicated to contact),” McNeill said. “The offense had some passing things to go through earlier. Defensively, the entire practice is geared towards that (contact). Offensive line-wise, after the blitz pick up period we began contact. … The entire day, even when we are just in shoulder pads, is geared towards contact.”
McNeill said he was pleased with the effort turned in by his group on Tuesday.
“The executions of our packages are better from spring,” McNeill said. “One of the things I have been observing is our carry over from spring to right now, and I saw a calmness and a more confident execution.”
East Carolina practiced from 2 p.m. until 4:45 p.m. under a strong sun with temperatures around the mid-90s, however, the Pirates were able to overcome the adverse conditions.
“I thought they were fantastic,” McNeill said. “I thought (strength coach Mike) Golden and his staff have done a great job all summer long.”
Junior Dominique Davis, who is battling for the starting quarterback job with Brad Wornick, Rio Johnson, Shane Carden and Zack Illing, tried his best to encourage his teammates to ignore the heat.
“It’s hot out here. I had to get the guys together and let them know ‘Don’t let this heat effect this practice,’” Davis said. “We can’t let the heat make us play bad, we just have to stay focused and do what we got to do.”
Davis transferred from Fort Scott Community College in Kansas, where he helped the team become the NJCAA leaders in total offense.
Davis, who also played a year at Boston College, has been a part of several different offensive styles and cited his lengthy resume as one of his best qualities.
“Experience is one of them, but my strength is getting the ball to my receivers,” Davis said. “We had one of the best running backs in the nation (at Fort Scott), so I would not give the credit for the offense all to me; we had a great line too. We ran a lot of I formation stuff there, at BC we ran a pro style offense and in high school we ran the spread.”
Junior Steve Spence, who emerged from the Purple and Gold game as the top middle linebacker, felt the team turned in a good effort first day of practice with pads.
“It went really well,” Spence said. “We went out there collectively as a team, all three phases offense, defense and special teams, and did a wonderful job of going out and banging.”
The appearance of pads did not alter the standard practice procedure too much, but Spence said there was some new wrinkles.
“We did pretty much the same drills we were doing prior to this,” Spence said. “We did some attacking drills more than usual, but also the linebackers and running backs did Oklahoma drills today. That was a new one.”
Spence practiced on Tuesday despite a slight groin injury suffered on Monday.
“With the intensity of how practice is in regards to our running, our defense is running and cutting a lot and there was a little tweak here around my groin,” Spence said. “But I’m fine, Mike Golden and Mike Hanley have taken great care of me.”
Harris named to Biletnikoff Award Watch List
 IRVING, Texas – East Carolina senior inside wide receiver Dwayne Harris was one of 50 players named to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. The honor recognizes the top wide receiver in college football.
Harris was the 2009 Conference USA Special Teams Player-of-the-Year and a first-team selection at wide receiver in addition to garnering second-team honors as a kick returner. His 2010 preseason wide receiver awards include First Team All-Conference USA as selected by league coaches, First Team All C-USA by Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook and second-team all-league by Phil Steele Magazine.
For his kick return duties, Harris was selected to the 2010 Consensus Draft Services Preseason FBS Honorable Mention All-America Team and was tabbed as College Football Performance Awards’ preseason favorite to capture the 2010 Kickoff Returner Trophy. Additionally, he was a Phil Steele Magazine second-team all-league honoree as a kick return specialist.
 As a junior, Harris helped the Pirates claim their second consecutive Conference USA Championship and AutoZone Liberty Bowl berth with his Most Valuable Player performance in the league title game against Houston. He tallied nine catches for 123 yards and a touchdown while adding a 69-yard kickoff return versus the Cougars.
 Harris hauled in 83 passes for the season, tying him with Aundrae Allison for ECU’s second-most receptions in a year. Harris’ 978 receiving yards were also good for second on the school’s all-time single-season list. The Stone Mountain, Ga., native, is the program’s all-time leader in receptions with 167 while standing second in receiving yards with 1,878, just 104 behind Troy Smith (1995-98).