GREENVILLE, N.C. – First-year East Carolina Head Football Coach Scottie Montgomery and the Pirates officially opened the 2016 spring practice period with their initial workout Wednesday afternoon on Hight Field inside the Cliff Moore Practice Complex.
Montgomery, who was appointed to ECU’s top football position last Dec. 13, led his squad through a spirited and energetic 90-minute workout, the first of 15 scheduled practice sessions which will culminate with the playing of the Purple-Gold Spring Game on April 16 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
“I thought the energy was exceptional,” Montgomery said. “It’s not easy to practice the way we practice and I can’t say enough about our coaches and how well they prepared and executed what we needed to get done. We saw a lot of competition out there today and I expect us to keep that level of consistency.”
The Pirates return five starters on offense, six on the defensive side of the ball and welcome back a total of 55 lettermen off a team which recorded an overall mark of 5-7 last season. Offensively, ECU opened spring drills with openings at the quarterback, running back, wide receiver and offensive line (three) positions. On defense, East Carolina lost both starters at cornerback, a defensive end, an inside linebacker and an outside linebacker.
Headlining the 2016 returnees are two players who earned All-American Athletic Conference postseason honors in 2015, including leading receiver Isaiah Jones (98 receptions for 1,099 yards) and guard J.T. Boyd (23 career starts). The Pirates also return all five of their kicking game performers in punter Worth Gregory, returner Quay Johnson, deep snapper Colton Oliver, placekicker Davis Plowman and kickoff specialist Caleb Pratt.
In addition to a distinct and clear focus on fundamentals, discipline and a visible up-tempo pace, ECU’s initial practice script featured a balance of run and pass individual and team repetitions on both sides of the ball with a special teams segment that emphasized the punt unit. Although void of contact, the Pirates devoted the final 24 minutes to team-on-team work, primarily stressing first-and-10 and blitz situations.
After planning on spending its first two practice sessions in shorts and helmets, Montgomery said ECU would progress to pads on Saturday morning.
Montgomery announced that a total of six players will miss the entire spring workout period because of injuries and subsequent rehabilitation efforts – ILB Devaris Brunson (knee), ILB Drayvon Fairley (knee), DB Bobby Fulp (shoulder), WR Isaiah Jones (shoulder), OLB Dayon Pratt (back), DB Travon Simmons (shoulder) … In addition to Marquez Grayson, whose dismissal from the program was announced during Tuesday’s press conference, Montgomery also removed redshirt freshman OL Darius Anderson from the Pirates’ roster for a violation of team rules … Senior James Summers, who started four games at quarterback for ECU last season, took reps at the wide receiver position on Wednesday – a first since the early stages of fall camp in 2015 … Senior Philip Nelson and junior Kurt Benkert shared the majority of snaps at QB during the initial workout … Benkert’s return to action was the first since suffering a season-ending knee injury last Aug. 25.
EAST CAROLINA’S 2016 SPRING PRACTICE SCHEDULE
Next Workout: Friday, March 18 (4:30 p.m.-6:20 p.m.)
Remaining Workouts: March 19, March 21, March 23, March 30, April 1, April 2 (scrimmage), April 4, April 6, April 9 (scrimmage), April 11, April 13, April 15 and April 16 (Purple-Gold Game, 2:00 p.m.)