17-year-old cornerback Antoine Jackson helping ECU defense come together

ECU plays at Rice in their conference opener on Saturday at 7 PM Eastern
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 7:28 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The ECU defense pitched its first shutout since 2000 on Saturday. They beat Gardner-Webb 44-0. The Pirates getting more and more connected as a group.

Even a 17-year-old freshman cornerback Antoine Jackson. One of the youngest players in college football is contributing to the turn toward what is expected of an ECU defense.

“I had a conversation with him. I said ok there will be a time when you are going to be on that field playing for us this year. When you get out there you can’t go out there like a 17-year-old freshman,” says ECU head football coach Mike Houston, “But the reality is he is a 17-year-old freshman. You are talking out both sides of your mouth there... I thought he did very well when he got in there. I did not think the stage was too big for him.”

“It’s not like hey nobody knows who I am. They know I am 17 and a freshman,” says ECU defensive coordinator Blake Harrell, “It is what it is. He has all the swagger and confidence in the world and he will continue to have that.”

Freshman Antoine Jackson who previously committed and de-committed from schools like Miami and Georgia is making an immediate impact for East Carolina. Most notably a pick six against App State that helped the Pirates build up a big first half lead in Boone two weekends ago.

“He’s handled it well, he’s a great player. He has a lot of potential and it shows,” says ECU linebacker Jeremy Lewis, “Be successful, make the catch, and return it. It was a lot into that play but he definitely showed up.”

It might be the start of the next great shutdown corner’s career for the Pirates.

“How does respond this week at practice? How does he respond to success?” says Houston, “Sometimes guys can’t handle success when they are young.”

“I think his biggest challenge is to continue to do what got him to this point. Not only last week to make a play, but to this point in his career,” says Harrell, “To continue to have that same hunger that same desire to go to work to continue to make plays for us.”

Now to build off the goose egg they hung on Saturday night. The Pirates face one of the top passing offenses in the country. JT Daniels ranks 9th in the nation in passing yards with 11 touchdown throws. It’s going to take Jackson and all of them together to shut it down again Saturday night.

“It’s really just exciting, electric it’s like something you can’t describe honestly. We got that bond with eachother now,” says ECU linebacker Teylor Jackson, “We know we are going to be there to make the play and we trust everybody. So, we all know we will do our job and have fun out there.”

ECU plays at Rice in their conference opener on Saturday at 7 PM Eastern. The game is being streamed on ESPN+.