Defense up to the task

East Carolina hits the road for its first away game of the season in two days. Inside ECU Sports was at practice to talk with the defense about preparing for the Tar Heels.

ECU heads to Kenan Stadium Saturday to continue its search for an elusive win against an Atlantic Coast Conference school in UNC Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels lead the overall series between the schools 12-2-1 and will be the toughest opponent the Pirates have seen thus far in 2013.

With NFL talent all over UNC's roster, head coach Ruffin McNeill knows the team has its work cut out for them.

"Carolina has a good team with a good coach," McNeill said. "They have a team full of skilled athletes and good football players. I try to worry about what we do, I can control that, and I like the way we've prepared. We know we're facing a really good football team, but I think we have a good football team here in Greenville."

The biggest storyline of the week was the suspension of junior starting nose tackle Terry Williams.

Williams was suspended indefinitely after breaking team rules. Defensive line coach Marc Yellock now turns to junior Chrishon Rose to take over the starting role against UNC. He's confident Rose won't set the team back.

"I have the upmost confidence in (Rose)," Yellock said. "It won't be any different from what we've been doing. We prepare for things like this and he's been playing at nose tackle the whole time. It's next person up, that's how I look at it."

Yellock spoke highly of Rose's ability.

"(Rose) is a smart player," Yellock said. "He has longer arms than Williams and is bigger and faster. I think he has things he brings to the table that other guys can't with his quickness."

The size difference shows in the wingspan. Terry Williams stands 6-foot-1 and weighs in at 322 pounds, while Rose is 6-foot-4 and weighs 299 pounds.

After starting five games last season, Rose is confident he can step in and make an impact against the Tar Heels Saturday in Williams' absence.

"Our defense as a whole is ready and I'm very confident," Rose said. "We attacked the bye week last week and worked on our techniques to get ready for the game. I feel like everyone has stepped it up this week. We played well against Virginia Tech, but didn't win. Our goal is to dominate this week."

UNC quarterback Bryn Renner is in top form this season. Last game he passed T. J. Yates for most touchdowns passes in school history.

Renner gashed the Pirates in the last meeting. He finished 24-for-43 for 321 yards and two passing touchdowns in a 27-6 Tar Heel victory.

One of the main reasons Renner was able to have so much success was the lack of pass rush. The Pirates only sacked the Tar Heel signal-caller one time in that game.

Defensive coordinator Rick Smith knows that can't happen Saturday.

"The pass rush will be the most important part of the defense," Smith said. "(Renner) is special; he has a great arm and can make any throw you want. He's exactly what they said he was. I didn't play against him last year, but all of the summer magazines talked about how good he is and I did a scouting report. (UNC's) offensive line isn't as good as last season, but they're getting better each week."

Matching up with the athletic wide receivers on UNC will be extremely difficult for ECU. Smith knows that and is preparing his defensive backs for a battle.

"I think (UNC) is better than we are at the skill-positions," Smith said. "I think their receivers are more athletic than my defensive backs. I say that because of the size, they aren't better athletes. When you're 5-foot-10 going against a 6-foot-4 wide-out weighing 250 pounds it's tough. Those guys can lean on you."

Smith believes the early parts of the game will be extremely important in the Pirates' success.

"The main thing is to know who you're lined up on," Smith said. "Early in the game we may need to be a little more cautious as far as alignment so we can gauge the athletic ability. After a few snaps we'll adjust our coverages to what we think will work against them. I worry about the deep balls even if we're there. It's about whether we can out-jump these guys and it's tough to do."

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