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Pirate offense takes big stride

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East Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers, left, goes to hand the ball off to Darius Pinnix during Wednesday's practice.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

East Carolina first-year football coach Mike Houston does not like to say that one side "won" a practice, but a big rebound day by the Pirates' offensive line left an impression on him that the offense was superb Wednesday.

Quarterback play also was efficient and the running backs, including veterans Darius Pinnix and Hussein Howe, meshed well with the line to create plenty of energy and positive momentum.

"I was really excited about the way our offense practiced today, and I thought that was the best practice we've had in fall camp as an offensive group," Houston said. "Of course that means I'm ticked off at the defense right now, but it started with our inside run (drill) and I thought we were very physical and really had a lot of energy and got downhill. We did a great job with that drill, and it continued on during practice."

Pinnix is projected as the Pirates' starting running back as a 6-foot, 234-pounder who is hoping to use his physical style for a breakout junior season and to give ECU a much-needed reliable rusher.

One position battle that is brewing on the O-Line is at right tackle, where sophomore returner Matt Morgan was projected as the starter but is getting pushed by Highland (Kan.) Community College transfer Bailey Malovic.

Malovic was 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds when he signed with ECU and enrolled in January, and he is now listed as 273 pounds. Morgan (6-5, 284) or Malovic will start Aug. 31 at N.C. State, likely as the blind-side protector for left-handed quarterback Holton Ahlers.

"Both of them are talented and will contribute this year, but that is one of the spots that is up for grabs right now," Houston said.

The coach added that Wednesday was especially important for the offensive line because it was a position group that struggled earlier in the week.

"In my opinion, in any program, your offensive line is the heart and soul of your team," Houston said. "As they go, so will we for the most part because they really set the tone for practice with the defense and everything involving the run game. They are so vital."

ECU will continue with daily practices before holding an important second preseason scrimmage Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

"Thursday will be a heavy day with a lot of competition and a lot of situations," Houston said. "By Saturday, we will have every situation that we will see on game day installed. ... Saturday is a big evaluation day for a lot of guys because we'll start establishing a depth chart after Saturday and start focusing more on N.C. State after Saturday. We want to put them in a lot of different situations, and see how they respond."

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

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