Nine days and counting

East Carolina football's home opener against Old Dominion is just nine days away. Inside ECU Sports went to practice for injury updates and an update on how position battles are shaking out.

--- Head Coach Ruffin McNeill ---

Reaction to wide receivers Justin Jones and Jabril Solomon being ineligible for 2013.

"It's always tough when you lose any player," McNeill said. "My job is to make sure all of them achieve (eligibility) and they did not."

Q: Which injuries have you most concerned with the home-opener approaching?

A: "With our sports medicine none of them really," McNeill said. "(Senior defensive lineman) Justin Dixon is still recovering, but he's such a great athlete he could come back. (Junior offensive lineman) Taylor Hudson will be back. There are a couple guys who won't be back until later on like (redshirt freshman outside linebacker) Drayvon Fairley, (freshman offensive lineman) Christian Matau and (freshman tight end) Darren Dowdell. We hope to get (junior running back) Breon Allen some more productive reps later on this week hopefully. (Junior defensive lineman) Chrishon Rose came back today, but we have to make sure we monitor him. (Sophomore defensive end) Jeton Beavers should be ready for ODU, but we'll monitor his reps and make sure he's good."

--- Defensive coordinator Rick Smith ---

Q: Has anyone nailed down the spot at boundary cornerback?

A: "I think it's probably going to be sophomore Josh Hawkins," Smith said. "Junior Detric Allen has had a great fall camp. Probably the one thing that separates them is I don't know how Detric is going to react to going into a game, whereas Josh started three games last year. Josh has worked his tail off, but really it's even. I just feel like since Josh has been there before we'll have him out there for the first game and get Detric in there to see how he reacts under fire. That's the only thing I worry about is what he's going to do in front of fifty thousand people."

Q: With the opener a little over a week away, how much Old Dominion have you thrown at the defense?

A: "All day today and one day last week," Smith said. "Today was all first down emphasis on Old Dominion."

Q: Do you plan on redshirting some guys?

A: "Freshman defensive back Xavier Smith is going to be redshirted with an injury," Smith said. "The verdict is still out on freshman cornerbacks Dashawn Benton and Travon Simmons. I think you need to carry six corners into the season. Junior Lamar Ivey had a great day at corner today, he's had hamstring issues, but if he gets ready to go I may be able to redshirt one of the freshmen."

--- Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley ---

Q: How are position battles shaking out?

A: "At running back sophomore Corey Hunter and senior Vintavious Cooper are a little ahead there," Riley said. "Sophomore Chris Hairston has really practiced well the last couple of days, so it's still a three man battle with Corey and Vintavious having a slight edge. The center battle has been almost too close to call. I thought Junior Taylor Hudson started off a bit stronger than sophomore C.J. Stryuk, but C.J. has really responded over the past few days. It looks like a position where we'll have a couple guys who can contribute. Outside receiver has still yet to be determined. Freshman Davon Grayson is playing pretty well at X along with (redshirt junior) Cam Worthy. Senior Reese Wiggins has done a lot of both and really had a strong second half of camp, senior Lance Ray and redshirt freshman DaQuan Barnes as well. There are five guys separating themselves."

Q: Do you have any thoughts on redshirting anyone?

A:"Right now freshman wide receivers Isaiah Jones and Davon Grayson are going to play," Riley said. "Freshman running back Marquez Grayson we would like to redshirt since we have depth in the backfield, but he does have some unique skills. We always ask ourselves two questions – are they physically and mentally ready to play, and is there a need for them to play. If the answer is yes to both questions, than we play them."

--- Special teams coordinator Kirk Doll ---

Q: How are things looking at the punt returner and kick returner positions?

A: "We're very fortunate to have a lot of great options," Doll said. "We have some experience as well so we're kind of mixing it up. We still have time before the first game so we'll continue cooking it and see where it pops out. When you have guys like Justin Hardy, Danny Webster and Lance Ray battling every day it's a good problem to have."

Q: What's the mentality of putting a star player like Justin Hardy back at punt returner? An injury to him could be detrimental to the team.

A: "If he walks out the door and trips he could suffer an injury too," Doll said. "That's not the philosophy at East Carolina with Coach McNeill. We're going to play the guys that can help us win and we look at it as the first play of offense. That's how we do it and you'll see our starters from receivers, running backs and linebackers in there because they have an obligation to do their best to help the team win."

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