Pirates Tackle the Summer

ECU officially completed its spring workouts Monday and now gets set to hit the summer head on. For our subscribers, here is a complete practice report from the Pirates' spring finale.

The East Carolina football team had its last full-contact scrimmage during Saturday's Purple-Gold Game, but it wasn't until Monday night that the Pirates completed their spring workouts since an earlier practice was postponed due to weather.

It was the final opportunity for Head Coach Ruffin McNeill, along with the coordinators and position coaches to work hands-on with the players at the Cliff Moore Practice Facility since the NCAA prohibits them from doing so during the summer.

In order to take full advantage of the time, the coaches awarded extra reps to younger players and gave out specific assignments for everyone to work on, individually, after studying the film from Saturday's scrimmage. When in the past, the team's last on-the-field meeting was the spring game.

McNeill highlighted several positives that he took away from watching the tape.

"I saw a lot of competitiveness and really good technique. I was really pleased with the way we ended spring, from the first day of practice to the last, with great fundamentals and great technique," he said, adding that this post-spring game practice "was very valuable and we took full advantage of it."

What lies ahead for the players is an entire summer with Strength and Conditioning Coach Jeff Connors, who is known for his otherworldly weight-room regimen.

Connors is entering the fourth year of his second tour of duty at ECU – separated by his 10-year stint at North Carolina (2001-2010) – and McNeill has great faith in him to improve his players over the summer.

"There's no other person I want to work with and would love to have our team around than Jeff Connors. I say it all the time. He's the absolute best at what he does," McNeill said. "He is a scientist, but at the same time a drill sergeant. But at the same time he has the ability to take a person to a place they can't get to by themselves. That's really big."

And this relationship between a head coach and a strength coach is important and certainly not something Connors takes lightly.

"The strength coach has got to be an extension of the head coach," said Connors. "Being able to have that relationship with a coach you are working for, it just doesn't get any better.

"I think our relationship is going to go a long way to future success."

But what do the players think? Sure, they will say they look forward to workouts with a disciplinarian like Connors – often times doing so tongue-in-cheek – but no matter how sincere their comments are, they understand their game can improve drastically through his program.

"You know when come into fall camp you're going to be a better football player," Quarterback Shane Carden said of Connors' summer program. "You don't always look forward to it every day, but if you go in there and you give it everything you've got, you're going to be a better person after that week, after those months.

"We're going to be faster, we're going to be in better shape and we're going to be stronger after these next couple months with Connors."

And the summer starts now. The spring is officially finished and what McNeill calls "phase three" in his year-round plan has begun.

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