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New week, new focus for Pirates

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East Carolina's head coach Mike Houston watches from behind the offense during a scrimmage on Aug. 10, 2019.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, August 12, 2019

A hot start by East Carolina football's offense during Saturday's scrimmage was still fresh on first-year Pirate coach Mike Houston's mind on Monday.

Film sessions followed by Monday morning's practice served as an ideal transition for the Pirates to move on from their first preseason scrimmage and gear up for another one this Saturday. Houston's post-practice comments Monday made it clear what areas will be in focus this week.

"We had two really good first drives offensively, then I thought we responded later in the scrimmage defensively," Houston said. "Urgency, playing with edge, physicality in the run game -- on both sides of the football -- and being able to consistently execute over an entire practice or an entire scrimmage, those are the areas coming out of last Saturday that we really need to improve on."

Quarterback Holton Ahlers was ECU's leading rusher in the scrimmage at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, producing a 56-yard touchdown run as part of his six carries for 113 yards. Reid Herring also was resourceful with his legs during a turnover-free day by the Pirates' two leading QBs.

"Both of them did some really positive things, and I was pleased with the fact that neither one of our first two quarterbacks turned the ball over on Saturday," Houston said. "That, and the lack of procedural penalties on offense, were two of the biggest pluses. ... We played a pretty clean scrimmage from that standpoint, with our 1s and 2s, on offense. That goes back to the quarterbacks managing those two units.”

Behind Ahlers and Herring at QB are freshmen Alex Flinn, Bryan Gagg and Zach Gwynn.

Depth on ECU's receiving corps has seen a retraction during preseason camp, as receiver Tahj Deans is no longer with the team and was officially removed from the roster. The former Southern Nash High School quarterback was working as a junior outside receiver for the Pirates this year. He caught one touchdown pass in 2018, which will serve as his final season at East Carolina.

One point of emphasis during Monday's practice was completing full install on special teams.

"Working the kickoff return today was the last (installment), so that was good to see," Houston said. "It was a solid day, but there are some things that we have to do better. Our actions have to reflect our words, so if we say that we are going to be a certain kind of team, then that is how we have to practice."

Mirroring last week's schedule, the Pirates are scheduled to practice every day in the buildup to Saturday's scrimmage. After the second preseason scrimmage, ECU will turn more of its attention to facing N.C. State in Raleigh on Aug. 31.

"I am pleased with the attitude as far as being coachable by our players, but we have to come along and we still have a long way to go before Aug. 31," Houston said.

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

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