Defensive Line Hopes for Increased Pressure

ECU's defensive line has been one of the fiercest in terms of stopping the run. However, the Pirates hope to find even more success in getting to the quarterback.

East Carolina’s defensive line has been decimated by injuries and departures but that hasn’t lowered the expectations of fifth-year defensive line coach Marc Yellock.

Since his arrival in Greenville back in 2010, Yellock has helped engineer some of the finest rush defenses seen at his alma mater. Last year with stalwarts Terry Williams and Crishon Rose, Yellock led a deep, experienced line to new heights and his 11th ranked rush defense was a big part of ECU’s success.

Now, though, Yellock is tasked with not only replacing the Williams and Rose, but dealing with concussion injuries that cut short K’Hadree Hooker’s career.

“It’s the same thing we’ve been going through year after year,” Yellock said. “People leave and people come and people have to step up. That’s how we train guys and it’s what we do in (fall) camp.”

Even with the departures, both injury and graduation related, the transition has been eased by the return of senior defensive lineman Terrell Stanley. The 6-foot-2, 268-pound lineman was key player on ECU’s 2012 and 2013 teams but missed the entirety of last season after a car accident that left him critically injured.

After a year of rehabbing his injuries Stanley adorned ECU’s spring practice on a part-time basis and seems to be a lock to earn a starting job after a successful fall camp.

One thing that Stanley noted going into this season is ECU’s need for an improved pass rush. While he could only watch from the sidelines last season it was clear that the Pirates weren’t doing enough to pressure opposing quarterbacks, a fact that was proven by ECU’s 21 sacks, good for 95th in the nation.

“We want to be better pass rushers,” Stanley said. “The last few years we’ve been really good against the run but I’d like to us to mold more into the pass rushing team and get more sacks.”

Yellock has taken notice too and has dedicated part of fall camp to improving the pass rush. However, he hasn’t put too much emphasis on the necessity of getting to the quarterback, instead focusing on stopping the opposing run game.

“A lot of (stats) are dealing with situations and I thought we did pretty good during certain situations,” Yellock said. “We always try to stop the run first. After that we’ll try to put guys in certain situations to help with pass rush but our number one priority is always to stop the run.”

Senior defensive lineman Johnathon White was a big part of ECU’s front seven last season and led the team with six quarterback hurries. With a cast of notable quarterbacks looming on the horizon, it appears likely that White will be a big part in helping pressure the opposing passers, hoping to throw them off their game.

“We just need to play less hesitant,” White said. “We’re working on drills now to become more fluent when it turns into game time.”

The Pirates’ season-opener with Towson is still a few weeks away and ECU has had to quickly adjust to new faces along the line. Yellock has stressed technique as the single most important aspect of fall camp and so far the dividends have shown.

“We still have some kinks we have to work out technique-wise and just getting better and more consistent,” Yellock said. “I feel good about how things have progressed, though.”

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