Fall camp journal: Monarchs on the horizon

GREENVILLE, N.C. -- After having a day off to rest their legs, the Pirates returned to practice Wednesday to keep preparing for the home opener against Old Dominion on August 31. Inside ECU Sports caught up with a few impact players from the defense to get the scoop on how things are coming along since their first scrimmage.

Seventeen days and counting until the Pirates will be inside Dowdy-Ficklen stadium for what should shape up to be a hard fought battle under Friday night lights against the Old Dominion Monarchs.

With their first scrimmage behind them, the Pirates have shifted their focus to preparing for ODU.

"We dove into our schedule today," head coach Ruffin McNeill said. "Today was an opponent day, we'll dive into some specific film and walkthrough geared toward our first ODU. We'll put some other things in as well to prepare them for what they're getting ready to face in a few weeks. Today was a good day to get into the mental part of the game – as far as opponent prep."

Defensive coordinator Rick Smith is vigorously preparing his defense for the home opener. Senior Michael Dobson made a recent switch from running back to strong safety on Smith's defense and he led all players with 6 total tackles in the Pirates' scrimmage this past weekend.

"Rick Smith coming back is the best thing that could have happened for our defense and me personally," Dobson said. "He's coached me up real well and made the transition smooth for me. Right now we have a good competition going on between me and (defensive back) Chip (Thompson). All of the defensive backs are working hard and I'm just going to go out there and try as hard as I can because I know Chip will do the same."

Dobson played defensive back in high school which has also helped him in his switch back from offense to defense.

The defensive line should be a strong unit for the Pirates in 2013 and sophomore defensive end Terrell Stanley is beginning to emerge as a sort of unsung leader amongst the defense. With senior defensive lineman Justin Dixon's continued knee problems, Stanley has been asked to step up.

"My coaches have been talking to me saying I need to be much more of a leader," Stanley said. "I try to lead by example, but they'd like me to step up my vocal leadership so I've been working on that. Every day we come out here and work hard so in the situation that one of us goes down we have a person to step up and take his spot." Freshman cornerback Dashawn Benton received high praise from Rick Smith last week and he is holding his own on the field. Benton is hard at work to get on the gridiron as a true freshman this fall.

"It's a grind every day," Benton said. "I'm pushing myself every day and trying to move up on the depth chart. Coordinator Rick Smith has helped me mentally by getting my mind right about the coverages. I'm very confident in my game, but it's definitely a big difference in speed between high school and college. I'm ready to show people I can play here and can make plays for us."

The Pirates have their next scrimmage this coming Saturday August 17.

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