GREENVILLE, N.C. – Second-year East Carolina Head Football Coach Scottie Montgomery opened the spring practice period with noon press conference before directing the Pirates’ first official workout late Monday afternoon on Hight Field inside the Cliff Moore Practice Complex.
After formally addressing the media, Montgomery led his squad through a detailed, execution-themed 100-minute practice, the first of 15 scheduled sessions which will culminate with the playing of the Purple-Gold Spring Game on April 22 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
“The energy level is always there, but I’m more focused on our execution and teaching this spring,” Montgomery said. “We’re a much stronger and faster football team, that was evident on Day 1 by how many of our guys have really transformed their bodies during the offseason. I thought our communication on defense was as good as I’ve ever seen it and we had great rotation up front.”
The Pirates return six starters on offense, seven on the defensive side of the ball and welcome back a total of 53 lettermen off a team which recorded an overall mark of 3-9 last season. On offense, East Carolina lost full-time starters at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and two on the offensive line. Defensively, ECU began spring drills with openings at tackle, end, inside linebacker and strong safety. Additionally, two pivotal members of the Pirates’ special teams squad – kicker Davis Plowman and punter Worth Gregory – must be replaced.
Headlining the 2017 offensive returnees are senior tackle Brandon Smith (23 career starts) and receivers Quay Johnson and Jimmy Williams. Johnson was the Pirates’ second-leading pass catcher with 58 grabs in 2016, while Williams, who was granted an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA because of an injury early during his career, led all ECU receivers with an 18.2 yards-per-reception average last season.
Defensively, senior inside linebacker Jordan Williams returns after topping East Carolina in tackles (77) a year ago, while the Pirates’ secondary brings back three of its four starters in free safety Travon Simmons (has opened 24 of last 25 games) along with cornerbacks Colby Gore and Corey Seargent.
After planning on spending its first two practice sessions in shorts and helmets, Montgomery said ECU would progress to pads Friday.
Montgomery announced that two seniors will be held out of contact work the entire spring workout period because of injuries and subsequent rehabilitation efforts – DE Kiante Anderson and DB/RS Chris Love … Junior Gardner Minshew owns the most experience (two starts) of ECU’s trio of quarterbacks this spring, which includes redshirt freshman Reid Herring and true freshman Kingsley Ifedi (enrolled at ECU in January) … Junior Garrett McGhin, who started 11 games at left guard last year, was moved to the center position … Despite the absence of contact, ECU spent the final 24 minutes of Monday’s initial practice conducting team-on-team work, primarily stressing first-and-10 situations with its “new-look” four-man defensive front and five-man secondary … A total of 19 players who participated in walk-on tryouts in November competed in Monday’s workout in hopes of earning a designated roster position.
EAST CAROLINA’S 2017 SPRING PRACTICE SCHEDULE
Next Workout: Wednesday, March 22 (4:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m.)
Remaining Workouts: March 24, March 27, March 29, March 31, April 1 (scrimmage), April 3, April 5, April 7 (scrimmage), April 10, April 12, April 19, April 21 and April 22 (Purple-Gold Game, 2:00 p.m.)