GREENVILLE, N.C. – After a pair of practices in shorts and two more in shells, East Carolina donned full pads for the first time in preseason camp Friday morning at the Cliff Moore Practice Complex. The Pirates completed their fifth workout session under cooler temperatures before heading into Saturday’s two-a-day schedule.
Saturday’s double-dose will be the first of three scheduled two-a-days over the next three weeks, with the others falling on Wednesday, Aug. 13 and Wednesday, Aug. 20. ECU will begin the morning’s full-pad practice at 8:45 a.m. before returning in shells at 4:15 p.m.
“I was once again pleased with the way we handled practice, especially moving forward to full pads,” said fifth-year head coach Ruffin McNeill. “We are very physical even in shells around here, which is a big misconception about our team. I think we get more done in our shell phase of camp, but we did go to full pads and I thought the guys did a great job with the transition.
“In our team meetings Thursday night, the subject was first and second downs on both sides of the ball and that was a major focus in practice Friday. Coach (Lincoln) Riley and Coach (Rick) Smith both laid out their goals and stressed the importance of what we need to do on both sides of the ball in those situations.”
Offensively, the Pirates spent 45 minutes on their short passing game with screen drills, specialized one-on-one matchups against defensive backs before engaging in pass rush blocking during their customary skeleton period. On defense, blitz work and an extended team session against scouts followed daily individual segments.
The Pirates also used nearly 20 minutes of practice with the special teams group, primarily focusing on punt return and coverage schemes.
“The special teams phase of the game has been going great with Coach (Kirk) Doll and we used extended time in that area, “McNeill added. “In the punt return game, we feel like there are a bunch of guys that will be beneficial for us. Our coverage unit did a lot of nice things and is a lot faster than I first thought, which falls on the shoulders of Coach (Jeff) Connors and his staff in the developmental and conditioning sessions from the summer.”
Saturday's Practice Times: 8:45 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.; 4:15 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Season Opener: Aug. 30 vs. North Carolina Central (8 p.m. EST)