MY TAKE: Immediate fallout, future potential of ECU coaching change

Published 11:26 am Monday, January 4, 2016

MICHAEL PRUNKA | DAILY NEWS INTRODUCTION: Scottie Montgomery speaks to the media at his introduction press conference. He recently made the next step in the coaching transition process by bringing in four new assistant coaches.

INTRODUCTION: Scottie Montgomery speaks to the media at his introduction press conference. He recently made the next step in the coaching transition process by bringing in four new assistant coaches.

When East Carolina director of athletics announced the dismissal of head football coach Ruffin McNeill, it was reasonable to assume some setbacks would accompany the transition to a new coach. A lot of those would be on the recruiting front.

As reported by Stephen Igoe of Hoist the Colours, ECU suffered a big recruiting causality recently. A pair of 2016 defensive linemen announced they had de-committed — 6-1, 285-pound Rondre Knowles-Tener and 6-4, 290-pound Jamil Dukes. It’s a significant blow, especially considering how much of an emphasis is being put on building size on the offensive and defensive lines. It also leaves the Pirates with less than a dozen commits in the class.

There is also the concern of how the team’s current players will react. Things reached a fever pitch mere hours after the announcement, with some players even taking to Twitter to voice their opinions. It was somewhat expected given McNeill’s reputation as a player’s coach.

That has since subsided. New coach Scottie Montgomery appears to be a likeable figure. He said his first priority was re-recruiting the players already on the ECU roster.

Things are looking a lot more promising on a different front. Another challenge Montgomery faced right away was hiring his staff of assistant coaches. He got a jump on that, hiring four about two weeks ago: Kenwick Thompson as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, Deke Adams as defensive line coach, Phil McGeoghan as wide receivers coach, Terrell Smith as director of football operations and Rick Smith being retained as defensive backs coach.

Rick Smith’s contributions are familiar. He has been part of a pair of conference championships as an ECU assistant. While the secondary looked shaky at times this past season, he’s been a mastermind behind a front seven that is consistently stingy with its run defense.

He and Thompson have the potential to team up as a stout defensive coaching combination. Vanderbilt, competing in the Southeastern Conference, ranked in the top 25 in many defensive categories with him coaching the linebackers.

It will be months before much is known about how the others will work out, but their résumés look impressive. ECU fans should be most excited about McGeoghan. He heads to Greenville after spending the last four seasons coaching receivers with the Miami Dolphins. Prior to that, he spent three seasons as a receivers coach with American Athletic Conference foe South Florida.

Between McGeoghan and Montgomery, this coaching staff knows how to produce the kinds of athletes that excel in ECU’s “Air Raid” offense. McGeoghan’s NFL background should help take the already exceptional Pirate pass catchers to the next level, as well as help recruit top-notch talent in the future.

Adams has shown the ability to help recruit and develop some impressive players up front. Working under the legendary Steve Spurrier at South Carolina, six players he’s coached have gone on to get drafted.

More recently, ECU named Tony Petersen its offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He has had plenty of success at similar mid-major programs, helping to develop standout quarterbacks and calling plays suiting the team’s strengths. In 2015, he played a pivotal role in Louisiana Tech’s offense ranking in the top 25 in plenty of offensive statistical categories.

His efforts put him in contention for the Broyles Award, which is given to the best assistant coach in college football. He has a lot to offer to an already talented group of quarterbacks.

The most recent hire was Florida International special teams coordinator on Saturday. He will assume the same role for the Pirates. He helped make the Golden Panthers the most efficient specialists in Conference-USA this past season.

Special teams was an area of weakness this past season. Worth Gregory had three of his punts blocked, including a game-changing block against Temple. More over, the return teams haven’t been anything of note, either.

These look like excellent hires on paper, especially considering that Montgomery had less than a $2 million pool to work with for assistants. They will have ground to make up for on the recruiting side. On offense, these appear to be coaches that can take an already potent aerial offense to the next level. There’s a lot of experience in developing quarterbacks and receivers.

The fans have always been enamored with the Pirates’ firepower and should be excited about the potential ahead.