GREENVILLE, N.C. - After conducting two non-contact sessions in shorts and helmets, second-year head coach Ruffin McNeill and the East Carolina Pirates began their spring practice schedulein earnest Friday afternoon by working in full pads for two-plus hours on Hight Field inside the Cliff Moore Practice Complex.
McNeill guided ECU's first full-pad practice after a pair of introductory workouts in shorts and helmets Monday and Wednesday. The contact session was the first of 12 which will be conducted in full gear or shells, including a pair of scrimmages and the Purple-Gold Spring Game April 16.
Despite the addition of equipment, McNeill and his staff spent the majority of the session keying on the sharpness of fundamentals while continuing the implementation of a new 3-4 package on defense and reviewing general schematics within the offensive playbook.
"I really liked the starting point we had in pads today," McNeill said. "The tempo was good on both sides of the ball for the most part as guys were moving around pretty well. Defensively, I thought we did some good things, especially on third down, and we made some plays on offense. We played with a sense of purpose and were able to focus on the fundamental process, which is so important."
Included in the early highlights of the workout were two separate special teams segments and a 10-minute period devoted to blitz pickups and one-on-one matchups between receivers and defensive backs before the Pirates closed practice with a 60-snap pass skeleton drill and team-on-team work for the final 30 minutes.
During the team session, which keyed on down-and-distance and redzone situations, senior Dominique Davis completed nine-of-12 passes for 69 yards and redshirt freshman Shane Carden was six-of-seven for 55 yards, including a long of 21 to junior Derrick Harris, to highlight quarterbacking play. On the other hand, the Pirate defense recorded a pair of sacks and forced three turnovers - a recovered fumble by junior Lamar McLendon and interceptions by sophomore Damon Magazu and junior Jacobi Jenkins - during the 35-play exercise.
The Pirates will close out their first week of work with a late morning practice Saturday before opening their second week of action Monday and start preparations for ECU's first full intra-squad scrimmage of the spring scheduled for April 2 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
EAST CAROLINA'S 2011 SPRING PRACTICE SCHEDULE
Next Workout: Saturday, March 26 (10 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Remaining Workouts: March 28, March 30, April 1, April 2 (scrimmage), April 4, April 6, April 8, April 9 (scrimmage), April 11, April 13 and April 16 (Purple-Gold Game, 2:30 p.m.)