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ECU's Freshwater to redshirt

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East Carolina freshman Traveon Freshwater (49) and other defensive linemen work during drills Tuesday.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

East Carolina football coach Mike Houston said after practice Tuesday that freshman defensive lineman Traveon Freshwater will redshirt for the Pirates this season, per an NCAA ruling.

Freshwater was a linebacker and running back standout at Elizabeth City Northeastern High School the last four years and signed with ECU in December as the Pirates’ highest-rated recruit. He can continue to practice this season, but will not be eligible to play in a game until potentially next year as a redshirt freshman.

“I really think this is the best situation for him,” Houston said. “He is able to get off to a great start academically here and he is a hard-worker. We’ll be able to support him and he’s able to participate fully in practice and all those things, so we are excited about having him in our program and look forward to having him on the field in the future.”

Freshwater, who is listed as 6-foot-1 and 242 pounds and during the recruiting process chose the Pirates over reported offers from Michigan State, N.C. State, Virginia Tech, Tennessee and others, has often worked as a third-team defensive end during preseason practices. His status during the summer was questionable, but he was cleared to report to East Carolina for the start of preseason camp.

His prep accolades included earning all-state status in 2016, ‘17 and ‘18 thanks to 80 career sacks as a four-year starter on defense at Northeastern. He also had 2,015 rushing yards as a junior.

If fully eligible, Freshwater might have positioned himself into the game rotation this year on the ECU D-Line that Houston said on Tuesday continues to be led by the senior trio of Kendall Futrell, Alex Turner and Jalen Price. Chance Purvis and Michael Swift are looking to secure the fourth starting spot on the opposite end from Futrell.

Behind them, there is a steady rotation of young players and newcomers like ASA College (N.Y.) transfer Hozey Haji-Badri, and freshmen Immanuel Hickman and Rick D’Abreu are continuing to learn as they are past their first week of ECU practices and have participated in one preseason scrimmage inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

“They need to (be ready) because they are going to get thrown in there, but I do think we are making improvement,” Houston said of the depth on the Pirates’ line. “Our older players are continuing to improve and Alex and Kendall and Jalen are continuing to work, so I like where we are progressing right there. I think Chance is starting to come along, so we have a few older kids to support those younger guys. Hozey and D’Angelo McKinnie are doing a solid job.

“Rick and Immanuel are young, but they have huge upside. All of those guys, and (Chandon) Hickerson will be back here soon (from injury), I think will make it kind of by committee this year.”

Futrell and Turner each had four sacks a season ago, serving as support for ECU then-senior standout Nate Harvey and his 14.5 sacks and 25.5 tackles for loss on his way to being named American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year.

Junior Aaron Ramseur (66 tackles in 2018) returns as a steady linebacker, but preseason themes have seen the emergence of Xavier Smith from a physical standpoint at linebacker, and return starting junior LB Bruce Bivens continues to stand out as a vocal leader for the defense.

Tuesday’s practice served as another day to stress intensity, and Houston came away with positive thoughts about his players’ effort. An early portion of practice featured the team getting physical with its 3-on-3, goal-line-style drill to test offensive players against their defensive counterparts.

“It is getting better, and I think we saw that a lot in today’s practice and it’s something we have to maintain,” Houston said. “The thing is it doesn’t matter what is going on or what time of year it is, you have to have (intensity) because if you have that, you have a shot. It is printed in (the locker room) on our board — edge, consistency, enthusiasm — those are the things we have to have every single day.”

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

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