As East Carolina's season opener continues to close in, the team is coming together more and more every day. Special teams is a group that, amidst plenty of position battles, has been taking shape slowly but surely.
Warren Harvey was listed on the preseason depth chart as the team's starting placekicker with Davis Plowman being his backup. Even so, the coaches have been keeping a close eye on both Harvey and Plowman as they battle it out for the starting role.
Harvey, who will be a senior this year, fell off a bit last season. He nailed only 60 percent of his attempted field goals after making 75 percent as a sophomore. He also missed a pair of extra points in 2013 after completing all 50 the year before.
“Every day they compete,” said special teams coordinator Kirk Doll. “Right now we chart everything, we time everything and we're going to play the best guy out there.”
The Pirates have another battle going on on the opposite end of placekicking. The coaching staff is having trouble picking out kick returners due to the sheer amount of viable options.
“We've got a lot of people,” Doll told Inside ECU Sports after Thursday morning's practice. “We're just trying to find enough ways to get reps and see who the best one is. It's nice to have that problem with a lot of talent.”
Star receivers Justin Hardy and Isaiah Jones stand out as strong choices for punt returner and kickoff returner, respectively, due to their performance in the past. However, Doll noted that younger and older players alike have stepped up to give the two some strong competition. The team will have the two roles defined by next Thursday's practice.
Punting has proved to be an anomaly. With Trent Tignor having graduated, Worth Gregory will take over as the starting punter with Plowman also backing him up, according to the preseason depth chart. The Pirates lose something special in Tignor, so it will be interesting to see how Gregory steps into his new role.
“Trent was valuable in a couple of areas,” said Doll. “Not only was he a good punter, but he was also helpful with some field goals. Sometimes that goes unnoticed, but that's just as important as the short snap. There's four areas of field goals that we always talk about: the snap, the hold, the protection and the kick. A lot of time, people think it's the kicker's fault. Sometimes it is and sometimes it's the other things that make him miss that.”
Gregory is driven to make the transition from Tignor to himself as smooth as possible. He spent last season as Tignor's backup, which gave him the opportunity to learn, but is set on making a name for himself.
“(Tignor) was a great punter and did a great job when he was here, but I have a lot of goals...I'm going to try and get in the record books here,” said the Alabama transfer. “I had a lot of opportunities (to learn from him). Not only is he a great player, but he's a great guy to learn from.”
Special teams will continue to shape up within the next week or so as ECU wraps up camp and sets its sights on its first opponent of the season—North Carolina Central.