Even with the re-injury of linebacker Jeremy Grove this week, the leading tackler from 2012, ECU has been stout against the run. The Pirates are currently holding opponents to an average of 87 yards a game and have allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns (3) in the top five nationally.
"Every time somebody goes down, somebody steps up," said defensive coordinator Rick Smith. "We lost Jeremy (Grove) and (Zeek) Bigger stepped in and is playing great. We lost (Kyle) Tudor and Brandon Williams stepped up and did a great job. We lost a defensive lineman and (Chrishon) Rose and those guys stepped up."
Smith mentioned the defense only has six defensive linemen after a suspension of Terry Williams a couple of weeks ago. He believes the success of those players who have stepped up revolves around one thing.
"I've always felt like if you have unselfish kids you can do a lot," said Smith. "If you have one selfish kid it can spoil the whole bunch, but we don't have any. They all understand in order to win they have to play together, they have to play extremely hard and they have to do their job."
Sophomore middle linebacker Zeek Bigger has made the biggest impact out of the players called to action. When Jeremy Grove went down, Bigger stepped in and tied for second in total tackles in his debut against Virginia Tech.
It's hard to say fans could've predicted a top three ranking against the run without Grove, but Bigger thinks the unit can keep it going.
"We need to keep doing what we're doing," said Bigger. "I don't think we need to change a thing. We need to just keep playing hard each and every day. When we play different teams we need to learn the different formations and things. But other than that we need to keep our hype, keep motivated, keep playing and reach our goals."
With today being Halloween and I asked safety Chip Thompson whether he tries to incorporate intimidation into his game in order to instill fear into his opponents. He mentioned he embraces the villain role.
"I usually try to intimidate other players," said Thompson. "I know if I'm coming to fill the alley the running back may think I'll go low if he watched film, but that's when I'll go high and get a big hit out of it."
The Pirates have chance to improve their rank this weekend against a lesser opponent in Florida International.