McNeill Addresses First Day of Summer Camp
East Carolina’s first official workout of the season concluded Thursday night, but not before a nearly three-hour rain delay sent players and coaches into the locker room. The break in the action halted practice, but former ECU running back Earnest Byner spoke with the team during the delay before the players and coaches returned to the field around 7 p.m. to finish special team and wrap-up drills. Officially practicing for the first time since spring, the Pirate players underwent a 6:30 a.m. condition test under the close watch of Strength and Conditioning Coach Jeff Connors. At 4 p.m. The players and coaches took to positional meetings before breaking off into 7-on-7 skeletons but were cut short because of the weather delay. “We wanted to see the attention and the focus that this group will need,” head coach Ruffin McNeill said. “This was the first time we were able to coach them as a group. We felt the intensity and the speed and the tempo. I thought they handled it well.” From a leadership standpoint, 14 starters from last season’s squad are now gone, including all-time greats Justin Hardy and Shane Carden, leaving considerable gaps to be filled. “I’m looking for a couple things, including which leaders will emerge from this group,” McNeill said. “The last three years we had dominant leaders in Shane Carden and Justin Hardy from a vocal standpoint. There are guys on this team who helped lead in the past.” Though the Pirates return 14 starters of its own and 59 lettermen, a few things will be different for the team since Carden and Hardy’s NFL departures, but even with a new quarterback behind center and a new receiver in the slot, McNeill noted that losing key starters is something he has had to overcome every year. Saturday will mark the first shoulder pad practice of the season for the Pirates and Monday is scheduled to be a full-gear workout as the McNeill and his staff have just over three weeks before camp ends the games begin. “I can tell you more when games start and as camp progresses but I liked where we started,” said McNeill. “I’ve seen people develop.” Among the other notable camp highlights, McNeill announced the addition of former Minnesota quarterback Phillip Nelson as a walk-on. Nelson’s eligibility for the upcoming season appears to be in question, in part because of an off the field incident while playing at Rutgers and it is not year clear whether he will be cleared to play in the impending campaign. McNeill also announced the additions of three other walk-ons, offensive lineman Jared Huneycutt, defensive lineman Anthony Orr and linebacker Bruce Walker to the team, brining the total player in camp up to 105.
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