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Pirates conduct first padded practice

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Mike Houston, East Carolina University's Head Football Coach holds the first Spring practice on Friday, March 15, 2019.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, March 18, 2019

East Carolina’s football team putting on shoulder pads for Monday morning’s workouts led to the first installment of full-contact drills.

Keeping with an early spring practice theme, first-year head coach Mike Houston left the practice encouraged with the effort by players yet aware that more education is needed, all around, for the Pirates to be the physical and quality-tackling club that he desires.

“We have to teach them how to tackle and how to bring their feet up and teach them how to violently wrap (the ball carrier),” Houston said. “You cannot just throw your shoulders into somebody and expect them to go to the ground. Especially not in the (American Athletic Conference) because I’m sure we have some big-time running backs and receivers. You can’t just throw your body into them.”

The coach’s 80-25 career record includes a 14-11 mark in two years at The Citadel, a military-based Football Championship Subdivision school.

He has referred to the inside run drill being a staple for the new-look Pirates. The drill, which was used Monday morning as Houston promised, excludes the offense from passing or running to the outside.

With the defense basically knowing the play that is coming and the offense forced to continue without an audible, it turns into an intense test of power and drive.

“That drill teaches us how to run into unsavory looks,” Houston said. “This is a drill that has been done for years. If you go to Alabama, I promise you that they have an inside run drill period during their practice. Most college football teams do this.”

Houston lauded the work shown by the Pirates’ centers during the team’s three spring practices. He also said ECU’s quarterbacks are continuing to compete and that the two veterans, sophomore first-teamer Holton Ahlers and junior Reid Herring, are leading the way as expected.

Defense is where a lot of the teaching moments remain as the Pirates progress with their plan to improve on tackling.

“I do not fault the players,” Houston said. “We have to do a great job of getting from where they are today at point ‘A’ and getting them to point ‘B.’ ... We have to do a great job of teaching them to fundamentally play the game of football, when there is contact involved.

“We regressed a little bit today, when we put the pads on, and that is not what we are accustomed to. We are accustomed to our teams in the past — every single school we’ve been at — thriving in that setting.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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