Pirates hold first scrimmage
GREENVILLE — The East Carolina football team entered the spring practice period with several jobs up for grabs and on Saturday the players tried their best to pad their resumes during the first of three scrimmages scheduled over the next three weeks.
In the past, East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeill has run 100-play scrimmages, but on Saturday he opted to have a practice period first before operating a 54-play exhibition.
“We were a little bit sluggish at the beginning because we did to some work before (the scrimmage) but I liked the way we got after it today,” McNeill said.
The Pirates most intense position battle comes at the quarterback position where four candidates are vying to take the place of the departed Dominique Davis.
On Saturday, junior Rio Johnson, last season’s No. 2 QB, took the first few snaps of the scrimmage and was followed by sophomore Shane Carden, freshman Cody Keith and senior Brad Wornick.
Statistically, Keith led all passers by completing 10 of his 11 attempts for 104 yards and threw the only TD pass of the game, a 27-yarder to Derrick Harris.
Johnson would go 6-for-9 for 38 yards, while Wornick hit on six of his eight attempts for 26 yards and Carden completed three of his five attempts for 21 yards.
Without having the opportunity to go over the film yet, East Carolina offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said it was still a bit early to declare which, if any, quarterbacks took a major step ahead of the others but was happy that none of the passers were picked off.
“The quarterbacks did well and took care of the ball, there were no interceptions” ECU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said.
At the running back spot freshman Chris Hairston caught some eyes as he carried the ball four times for a scrimmage-high 27 yards.
“Chris Hairston is much better in live scrimmage situations than he is in practice,” Riley said. “I thought the running backs had some good tough runs … We have a lot of guys in that group and they’re ready to compete right now. That’s going to be a fun battle as we go from spring into the summer.”
Junior RB Michael Dobson was second behind Hairston with 15 yards on three carries, while senior Reggie Bullock rushed two times for seven yards, junior Torrance Hunt ran four times for six yards and sophomore John Barnes-Smith carried the ball once and picked up a yard.
Junior transfer running back Hunter Furr did not participate in the scrimmage due to a concussion.
The four quarterbacks threw for a total of 25 completions for 189 yards and the leading receiver was Harris who caught three passes for a scrimmage-best 45 yards, while Justin Jones tallied two receptions for 41 yards.
On the flip side, defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell liked what he saw from his unit on Saturday and said this year’s group could be the fastest he’s had in his three seasons with East Carolina.
“I’m excited about the whole defense because I see speed,” Mitchell said. “We’re a lot more athletic this year than we were last year.”
For the first time in his tenure with the Pirates Mitchell does not have to implement a new scheme and felt that the continuity will pay off.
“That’s the key, we’re not installing we are progressing in this defense,” Mitchell said. “We’re going to add some more wrinkles to what we do and try to make the 3-4 even better this year, but more important our kids are focusing on position mastery.”
Leading the way for the defense was sophomore nose tackle Terry Williams who had six tackles, while sophomore safety Lamar Ivey had five. Junior defensive end Justin Dixon led ECU with two sacks.
When asked who caught his eye Mitchell would not cite one or two players but instead praised the entire unit.
“The collective stood out. When you only give up seven points and you’re pretty efficient on third down it’s the collective. It’s never one guy who’s doing all the work,” Mitchell said.
RUSHING: Chris Hairston (4-27), Michael Dobson (3-15), Reggie Bullock (2-7), Torrance Hunt (4-6), John Barnes-Smith (1-1), Rio Johnson (1-<-5>), Shane Carden (4-<-7>), Brad Wornick (2-<-11>). Totals –– 21-33 (1.6 ypr), 0 TD.
PASSING: Cody Keith (11-10-0, 104 yards, 1 TD), Rio Johnson (9-6-0, 38 yards), Brad Wornick (8-6-0, 26 yards), Shane Carden (5-3-0, 21 yards). Totals –– 33-25-0, 189 yards, 1 TD (75.8%).
RECEIVING: Derrick Harris (3-45, 1 TD), Justin Jones (2-41), Dayon Arrington (3-19), Gray Mazzone (2-19), Chris Hairston (4-18), Andrew Bodenheimer (2-11), Antonio Cannon (2-10), Justin Hardy (1-9), Brandon Weymann (1-5), Cedric Thompson (1-5), Reese Wiggins (1-3), Reggie Bullock (2-2), Torrance Hunt (1-2). Totals –– 25-189, 1 TD
TACKLES: Terry Williams 6, Lamar Ivey 5, Justin Venable 4, Detric Allen 3, Ty Holmes 3 (TFL/-1 yard), Jacobi Jenkins 3, Chris Baker 2 (sack/-8 yards, TFL/-8 yards), Justin Dixon 2 (2 sacks/-11 yards, 2 TFL/-11 yards), Derrell Johnson 2 (2 sacks/-10 yards, 2 TFL/-10 yards), Damon Magazu 2, Kyle Tudor 2 (PB), Jonathan White 2 (sack/-5 yards, TFL/-5 yards), Brandon Williams 2, Adonis Armstrong 1, Zeek Bigger 1, Michael Brooks 1, Desi Brown 1, Daniel Drake 1, Robert Huckabee 1, Leonard Paulk 1, Lee Pegues 1, Rocco Scarfone 1, Terrell Stanley 1, Godfrey Thompson 1, Joshua Hawkins (PB)