First scrimmage down

East Carolina football returned to practice Monday after having their first spring scrimmage this past weekend. Inside ECU Sports spoke with players and coaches about how it went.

The Pirates spent this past Saturday inside Dowdy-Ficklen stadium for their first spring scrimmage. The contest was the first of three held during spring workouts for the team, consisting of hard play from both offense and defense.

"I thought there were some really positive plays, some explosive plays on both sides of the ball," head coach Ruffin McNeil said. "I thought the defense did a great job of taking the ball away today. I like the fact that the defense got the ball, and if we keep that trend going for next year, that's a very good benefit for us."

The offense had seven plays of 20 or more yards and the defense's performance was highlighted with four turnovers. Rick Smith is known for producing hard-nosed turnover producing defenses and it looks as though he is on the right track to have another at ECU in his returning season.

Junior quarterback Shane Carden went 20 of 26 for 217 yards and three touchdowns, his longest of the day coming on a 23 yard toss to junior inside receiver Justin Hardy. "As an offense I thought we played really well," Carden said. "The good things we've been working on out here we brought out onto the game field, there were a few things we could work on but the first scrimmage of spring is going to be like that."

Sophomore wide-receiver Bryce Williams, a transfer from the Pirate's Conference USA rival Marshall, led all receivers with 93 yards on five grabs. Williams caught two passes over 30 yards in his first scrimmage as a Pirate.

"He's been working his tail off in the off-season," Carden said. "Justin Jones has been helping him out; they're both big receivers and he's just kind of getting the hang of it. Overall he's a good humble kid and a great receiver to have."

Offensive Coordinator Lincoln Riley had a chance to see his offense in a game-like situation for the first time this spring. "We moved the ball pretty well and had a lot of explosive plays," Riley said. "I didn't like that we had four turnovers, that's the big thing. All of them but one came after big plays, but we have a chance to clean it up out here."

Walk-on running back Cory Hunter had the longest run of the game with a 13 yarder. He ended the contest leading all rushers with 40 yards on 10 attempts. Vintavious Cooper's suspension earlier this spring has opened the door for players like Hunter.

"It's next man up," Riley said. "Coop came in here as an unknown guy who made the most of his opportunity. If you're sitting out or not here, we're going to have people out here who can give you a run for your money or pass you up and Cory is one of those guys taking advantage of the opportunity."

This spring, the Pirates have added new weapons on the offensive side of the ball and returned a majority of the guys who accounted for some big plays last season. Hunter is among the many talented players that the Pirates have at their disposal to produce explosive plays this coming fall.

"We'd like to become more explosive but with consistency," Riley said. "The biggest thing is that we keep improving, that's one of the things I liked from last year's group is they looked different from game one to game 12 or 13."

The Pirates returned to the practice field today, Monday April 8, focusing on correcting their mistakes from the scrimmage. The team will keep at it this Wednesday and Friday until hitting the field at Dowdy-Ficklen this Saturday for their second spring scrimmage.

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