Three Takeaways from the Spring
East Carolina wrapped up spring practice with its annual spring game on Saturday. With a cast of new faces, and questions to be answered, the Pirates showed fans a glimpse of what’s to come as changes surround the program. Here are three things we’ve learned about the Pirates this spring: THE RUNNING BACK BATTLE IS NO MORE CLEAR THAN BEFORE Going into the spring game, ECU offensive coordinator Dave Nichol made it abundantly clear that he would prefer if one of his many capable running backs made a case for the feature back role. Things became a little clearer when Virginia Tech transfer Chris Mangus dropped out of the race after he was released from the team for a violation of team rules prior to the spring game. With Mangus, who was expected to see significant playing time this season, out of consideration, it was sophomore Anthony Scott, junior Marquez Grayson and senior Chris Hairston whom were all left to compete. Scott led the team in rushing with 55 yards on six carries, Grayson notched 32 yards on five carries and Hairston ran the ball just once but wound up in the end zone. After the game, Nichol made it clear that he had yet to see a player claim the feature back spot. “(Scott) had some good stuff,” he said. “I think all three of them are going to be good. I think Chris Hairston is playing more physical, a bit tougher. Marquez (Grayson) has always fallen forward because he’s a big dude. I think it’s going to be a three-headed monster again.” With spring practice over and summer practice on the horizon, Nichol gave his assessment on what he’s looking for from each of his runners. “I’m challenging them saying, ‘look if you want to be the guy then you have to play every play,” Nichol said. “You’ve got to pass block, catch the ball.” BENKERT STRENGTHENS BID FOR STARTING JOB Redshirt sophomore quarterback Kurt Benkert didn’t do much to hurt his apparent lead in the quarterback race. Finishing 11-for-17 passing with 125 yards and a touchdown. His biggest completion of the game came on a scramble play in which he tossed a 44-yard jump ball that receiver Trevon Brown came down with. His performance wasn’t perfect by any means, but he did undoubtedly lead the inexperienced quarterback crop. Junior Blake Kemp finished 6-for10 through the air for only 33 yards, but didn’t show any flashes of brilliance like the sophomore Benkert. “You have to figure what you have to do to get better,” Benkert said. “Everybody is going to have the same mentality over summer.” SECONDARY UP TO SNUFF Position battles headline the ECU secondary and despite the uncertainty as to who will start when the season rolls around, the defensive backfield had a good showing this spring. Cornerback Corey Seargent had arguably the best performance of any Pirate defender in the spring game, as he led the defense with eight tackles in a first-team role. The second closest defender was linebacker Zeek Bigger with four. A cast of defensive backs in battles stated their cases for a starting job in the game. Seargent was splitting first-team reps with senior Josh Hawkins against the second-team offense. DaShaun Amos and Rocco Scarfone, who defensive coordinator Rick Smith said was the most fun battle to watch earlier in spring, split time in the boundary corner position and despite neither player getting on the stat sheet, both players played well in coverage. Travon Simmons, currently fighting with Domonique Lennon for the free safety spot, finished third on the team with three tackles in the game. Freshman defensive back Nhrye Quinerly recorded an interception, joining sophomore Traivs Phillips as the only two Pirates to force turnovers in the contest. At the end of the game, ECU’s secondary held the Pirate offense to just 198 passing yards through the air and one Benkert touchdown pass.
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