Pirates outline objectives for preseason

Published 8:15 pm Monday, August 7, 2017

GREENVILLE — Scottie Montgomery named two objectives for camp on Saturday when the East Carolina program hosted its annual media day: building trust and team chemistry, and competing for an American Athletic Conference championship.

Trust has been a goal of Montgomery’s since he began his tenure with the Pirates. He had to follow in the footsteps of a beloved coach in Ruffin McNeill. He said when he arrived in Greenville over a year ago that he had to almost re-recruit the players already on the roster.

Trust has a bearing on the chemistry between teammates and between players and coaches. So, too, does the number of additions to this year’s team. The Pirates added six graduate transfers at a number of key positions. A number of them are competing for starting roles: former Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk, two Clemson transfers in running back Tyshon Dye and safety Korrin Wiggins, and former Minnesota defensive end Gaelin Elmore.

Montgomery and company know that team chemistry needs to be a focus now. They’re working to build it on and off the field now so that, with so many new players, the Pirates will be hot out of the gate come Sept. 2.

“Our team chemistry will happen away from the football field,” Montgomery said. “Our team has done a really good job, our coaches have done a good job to make sure we create the kind of environment that is conducive to winning.”

Another issue to address from a chemistry standpoint is the loss of three players. Montgomery announced that freshman Blake Proehl suffered a torn ACL and will miss the season. He also said running back Anthony Scott and defensive lineman Yiannis Bowden are academically ineligible.

When it comes to competing in the league, the Pirates know that they must have strong fundamental base to get ahead of some of the problems that set them back in 2016. Montgomery said that will be the second goal of the camp.

“Offensively, our area for improvement we really want to focus on is we want better red-zone efficiency,” he said. “The way that we do that is three things: no penalties, no mental errors, and no turnovers. We know that they’re going to occur, but we’re going to shoot for those.”

ECU ranked 121st of 128 FBS programs in red-zone offense. On defense, the Pirates are also hoping to address the number of explosive plays given up to opponents. They ranked 100th in the nation in total defense. Big plays were a reason for the change to a 4-2-5 defense, which Montgomery hopes will help cover more space and keep more playmakers on the field. He said ECU will have to not only be strong up front, but will also need tackling from defensive backs.

Fundamentals stressed now in preseason camp will shape the play on special teams, too. Team chemistry will also be a large factor in that facet of the game as the Pirates strive to be a more cooperative unit.

“We’ve got to be a we, not me team on special teams,” Montgomery said. “Identify the playmakers is what I told our team and coaches. So far, we’ve done a good job of identifying some playmakers.”

ECU continues to work through its first week of camp. It will host its “Meet the Pirates” event on Aug. 12. The Pirates open the season at home on Sept. 2 against defending FCS champion James Madison.