Scrimmage Reveals Offensive Weaknesses

East Carolina football continued spring practice on Monday with a scrimmage that revealed some weaknesses within the offense.

With the April 12 Spring Football Game just around the corner, East Carolina had the chance to scrimmage in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Monday. Among things that became apparent to players and coaches is the need to focus on fundamentals.

One fundamental area of focus coming out of the scrimmage is penalties. ECU had a marginal advantage in that aspect last season. The Pirates were penalized an average of 44.9 yards per game, compared to opponents' 46.8 average.

"Fundamentals were big today," said head coach Ruffin McNeill. "We really officiated hard and tight, but the team did a good job. We had a couple of administrative penalties. I want to be fundamentally sound, play smart and I want to see execution of what we call 11-man football. We have to watch the film, but from eyeball point of view, I thought we did good in a lot of portions."

The transition from Conference-USA to the American Athletic Conference will welcome plenty of new and higher quality competition. ECU can't afford to surrender opportunities because of sub-par fundamentals.

Turnovers were another glaring issue in Monday's scrimmage. The offense, which collected 436 yards and a touchdown, had four turnovers—three interceptions and a fumble. Shane Carden threw two picks while Kurt Benkert threw one. The defense should be attributed for forcing the turnovers, but the offense also takes blame.

"We've been practicing real hard over there on the practice field," said Carden. "We've just got to translate that over here. We did some things that were very uncharacteristic of us—the turnovers, jumping offsides and false starts. Just things that we can easily correct and things we haven't been doing. Things that we've just got to realize let's go over here, let's just play the offense we've been playing on the practice field and continue to do that."

The team is confident in its ability to correct fundamental shortcomings and do so in a timely fashion. Even though four turnovers and four penalties aren't something one usually expects from the Pirates, it's early in the spring practice schedule. The coaches and players don't see a reason to think the team won't be in form come the Spring Football Game.

"It's just getting timing down from everybody," said McNeill. "Receivers understanding what we want there and just the whole bit. But it's nothing that can't be fixed. This is a team that's been around. We have good leaders in this team. Nothing happened today that can't be fixed."

"This team, they love to be coached," added McNeill. "That's what I like about this team. They love to be coached. Good plays by defense, too. Give those guys credit. We'll get it fixed. No problems."

All things considered, the offense showed plenty of positive signs. Justin Hardy led receivers with 57 yards on three receptions—including a 35-yard grab. Jimmy Williams also made a 34-yard reception. Cam Worthy and Isaiah Jones tied for most receptions with four each. Redshirt freshman running back Marquez Grayson also stood out with 58 yards and a touchdown on seven rush attempts.

Also, even with all the turnovers, Carden and Benkert combined for a perfect 6-for-6 on fourth-down conversions. ECU showed plenty of aggression on fourth down last season and saw success on 12 of 17 conversion attempts.

Kickoff for the Spring Football Games is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Now that the Pirates have some experience scrimmaging on the stadium field under their belt and some time to correct mistakes, it should be more fundamentally sound showing.

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