Defensive Line Begins To Take Shape

GREENVILLE, N.C. — Returning just one starter on the defensive line from a season ago, ECU is faced with questions about the defensive front.

Fresh off of an 8-5 season in which the East Carolina defense finished 11th in the country in terms of rush defense, the Pirates are confronted with a few key departures on the defensive line this spring.

Gone are departing seniors Chrishon Rose, Terry Williams and Terry Biles. In total, the trio of defenders accounted for 93 tackles and two sacks a season ago, which is a sizable amount of production for any team to overcome.

Despite being tasked with replacing the losses, third-year defensive coordinator Rick Smith hasn’t been so quick to press the panic button.

“We lost Terry and we lost Chrishon,” Smith said. “Last year, we played nine kids. So we have seven guys back that have been to war so we feel real good about that position. We’ve got more experience in that position.”

The players that Smith alluded to include lineman Fred Presley, who registered 35 tackles and a team-high six sacks last season, K’Hadree Hooker and Demetri McGill. The latter duo combined to see action in 22 games and notched 15 and seven tackles respectively.

Perhaps the feel-good story of spring camp so far has been the much-welcomed return of senior defensive lineman Terrell Stanley, who missed the entirety of last season due to injuries sustained in a car accident last February.

“It feels good, I’m a little banged up right now,” Stanley said. “To be out here with the boys, there’s really no better feeling than that.”

The 6-foot-2, 266-pound lineman was named as an All-Conference USA honorable mention player in 2013 after tallying 46 total tackles, seven sacks and 10 tackles for a loss.

A return to form alone won’t be enough to carry the line to the same heights as last season.

“(This season) is a unit thing,” Stanley said. “All of the front seven has to get better. If we all get better we will be where we were last year.”

So far, with spots open in the trenches and the Pirates known for having interchangeable tackles and ends, the competition to see who claims the spot will be all the more interesting.

“No one is a starter right now,” Stanley said. “It’s the spring time. You kind of have an idea of who you want to be there but everyone is competing right now.”

With a barrage of upperclassmen spearheading the position battle, focusing on the finer things of the position is a major priority as camp ensues, according to Smith. The third-year coordinator believes that the defense has an opportunity to not only match last year’s success, but exceed it as well.

“The experienced guys, we want them to continue to work and get better of course,” Smith said. “We don’t want them to assume (they will start) because they played last year. Basically alignment, assignment, doing your job, if we get eleven guys doing their job then we have a chance to win again. I think if we do our job then we can be better than we were last year.”

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