Offensive Line Open For Competition

GREENVILLE, N.C. — Inside ECU Sports caught up with offensive line coach Brandon Jones after ECU's fifth practice of fall camp.

The East Carolina football team completed its fifth practice of fall camp Friday, where one of the most intriguing developments is taking place up front on the offensive line.

Currently in the process of replacing three starters from last year, offensive line coach Brandon Jones has more options than he has ever had going into a season — and made it clear that nobody’s position is secure.

“There are 10 or 11 guys ... that I’d feel comfortable putting them in. It hadn’t been that way in the past,” Jones said. “It’s open. I don’t play any favorites. If you’ve excelled in this camp, that’s who I’m going to go with.”

Although the Pirates graduated starters from a year ago, their losses are not indicative of this season's group being inexperienced.

Junior Tre Robertson stepped in for Adhem Elsawi at right tackle when the senior suffered an eye injury. In his first collection of starts, Robertson quietly went about his business with little drop-off and was called the Pirates' best offensive lineman by Jones this spring.

C.J. Struyk and Taylor Husdson have both started games in their careers, but are both listed as first-team centers, which sets up one of camp's most competitive position battles.

"I've played both with both for a season and I feel very comfortable with both of them," quarterback Shane Carden said. "I think they've done a great job of not letting this whole competition of the last two years really affect their friendship or connection with the offensive line."

Ike Harris was a staple at left tackle in his first season as a starter in 2013. More importantly, he is back in camp and practicing after missing the spring with the shoulder injury he suffered while sitting in the passenger seat of the vehicle defensive lineman Terrell Stanley wrecked in February.

As for the guard spots, junior college transfers, Quincy McKinney and Dontae Levingston, joined the mix this summer and are trying to possess a good understanding of the Pirates’ fast-paced offense in time for the season opener on Aug. 30.

“I think the major thing for an offensive line is understanding the quickness of the game,” quarterback said Carden. “It’s not hard to understand, but I think the quickness of the game — maybe for a newcomer —makes it a little more difficult to understand.”

McKinney was originally committed to Louisville, but surprisingly flipped to ECU on signing day after spending time at Hutchinson Community College (Kansas). Levingston was also one of the Pirates’ top targets of this year’s recruiting class and arrived from Santa Monica Community College.

Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley called the duo, “the two best JUCO linemen we’ve signed” during Tuesday’s media day and said they had major potential.

“I’ve been pretty impressed with those guys,” said Jones. “I got a good feel for those two early. Physically, I felt pretty confident at where they are. I’m just constantly working on getting them to pick up the scheme and getting them comfortable with where they are.”

Both McKinney and Levingston were made unavailable for media interviews until ECU's opener against North Carolina Central.

Friday was the first practice that ECU has worn full pads. Towards the end of the session, an ambulance came onto the Cliff Moore Practice Complex fields after a serious injury to freshman wide receiver, Kole Stanley.

Inside ECU Sports was told it was a serious compound break close to the ankle of Stanley, but neither Head Coach Ruffin McNeill nor ECU athletics have yet to confirm that diagnosis.

Saturday will mark the team’s first two-a-day of fall camp that begins with a morning sessions — starting at 8:45 a.m. — and ends with a second practice set to wrap up around 6 p.m.


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