GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – First-year head coach Mike Houston says he first noticed that tackling was a major problem for ECU Football when his former team, James Madison, steam-rolled the Pirates 34-14 to start the 2017 season.
Now in charge of the Purple and Gold, Houston is going back to the fundamentals and infusing a family atmosphere in an effort to turn this proud program around.
"I can't wait until this fall for us to get in here and be live and in game action," Houston said at practice Saturday.
But until then there is still plenty of work to be done, specifically when it comes to tackling.
"Putting the emphasis on tackling, thudding, you know tagging the right way," explained junior defender Warren Saba. "We are definitely going to be a physical football team."
"I see more hard-nosed physical, doing the same things but doing them better," senior wideout Deondre Farrier added.
And 'better' is a big word for Houston as he attempts to fix Pirate football.
"I do think we made improvements this week from where Monday was to where we are now," Houston said.
But after four energy-filled practices this past week, Houston says he's not satisfied.
"We are not anywhere close to where we need to be or where we want to be or where we will be, but we are better than we were a week ago," Houston said.
And it's that positivity -- infused with a family atmosphere -- that Houston believes will help shape the future success of his program.
"I told them, there's no place I'd rather be, there's no bunch I'd rather be here with and we're in this thing together," Houston said.
"A lot of guys are coming together and just being friends," added Saba. "I think that's a big part of success, and we're getting better at being a whole team."
"Family, it's not always pretty, so we have to hold each other accountable," said senior placekicker Jake Verity. "We have to tell each other when we're doing something wrong. We have to watch out for each other off the field. We have to tell each other when we're doing good things on the field. So, we're really here to encourage and keep each other in line."
"I think [family] is the real key ingredient," said Houston. "Learning to trust each other. The thing I stress to them is we're all in this together. We're all going to push each other and encourage each other. We're all in this together through thick and thin."
On deck for the Pirates is lots of rest and lots of film. The team returns to full-speed practice on Wednesday.