New faces hoping to make special moments for ECU’s special teams

Mitchell, Fleming, Larsen take on big roles
New faces hoping to make special moments for ECU’s special teams
Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 6:00 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - ECU-N.C. State a day closer. ECU lost returner Tyler Snead and punter Jonn Young this year. It left major holes in the Pirates special teams. The next men up solidified on Tuesday with the announcement of the depth chart.

“I have gotten faster,” says ECU running back Keaton Mitchell, “(How much faster?) Alot, a lot.”

Speed kills and getting the ball to the playmakers is always key. That’s why Coach Mike Houston’s depth chart has preseason All-American honorable mention Keaton Mitchell returning kicks.

“He’s an experienced guy. Good decision maker,” says ECU head football coach Mike Houston, “You got to trust who you put back there at that deep returner.”

“Probably watching Chris Johnson when I was growing up,” says ECU quarterback Holton Ahlers, “I hope it’s like that. He’s as electric as anyone I have seen since Chris Johnson.”

Explosive speed is the idea for punt returner as well.

“Malik Fleming and C.J. Johnson. Both very solid and trust both of them,” says Houston.

Cornerback Malik Fleming is the top return man on the list.

“Malik will go back there and make good football plays. He’s gonna catch the ball and get north and south,” says ECU special teams coordinator Tim Daoust, “We are excited for the opportunity. He’s one of our better football players.”

Luke Larsen steps in at punter this year. He will be holding field goals for kicker Owen Daffer. The coaches are confident he can step up.

“With COVID, and the redshirt year, he is a 30-year old freshman. Steady, nothing gets in his head. Look me in the eye and tell me about whatever situation is going on,” says Daoust, “Calming for me to know look is going to go out there, in past performances good and bad, won’t affect the next play.”

Daffer back at kicker. Coach Houston says their kickoff play could decide the game with N.C. State.

“They were number one in the country in kickoff returns last year,” says Houston, “We are going to have to be solid in that third phase on gameday. I think it will be a big determining factor.”

ECU and N.C State kickoff at Noon on Saturday. UNC is also at App. State Saturday at noon. Duke plays Temple on Friday night and Wake Forest kicks off against VMI Thursday night.

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