GREENVILLE, N.C. – Second-year East Carolina Head Football Coach Scottie Montgomery opened the spring practice period with noon press conference before directing the Pirates’ first official workout late Monday afternoon on Hight Field inside the Cliff Moore Practice Complex.
After formally addressing the media, Montgomery led his squad through a detailed, execution-themed 100-minute practice, the first of 15 scheduled sessions which will culminate with the playing of the Purple-Gold Spring Game on April 22 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
“The energy level is always there, but I’m more focused on our execution and teaching this spring,” Montgomery said. “We’re a much stronger and faster football team, that was evident on Day 1 by how many of our guys have really transformed their bodies during the offseason. I thought our communication on defense was as good as I’ve ever seen it and we had great rotation up front.”
The Pirates return six starters on offense, seven on the defensive side of the ball and welcome back a total of 53 lettermen off a team which recorded an overall mark of 3-9 last season. On offense, East Carolina lost full-time starters at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and two on the offensive line. Defensively, ECU began spring drills with openings at tackle, end, inside linebacker and strong safety. Additionally, two pivotal members of the Pirates’ special teams squad – kicker Davis Plowman and punter Worth Gregory – must be replaced.
Headlining the 2017 offensive returnees are senior tackle Brandon Smith (23 career starts) and receivers Quay Johnson and Jimmy Williams. Johnson was the Pirates’ second-leading pass catcher with 58 grabs in 2016, while Williams, who was granted an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA because of an injury early during his career, led all ECU receivers with an 18.2 yards-per-reception average last season.
Defensively, senior inside linebacker Jordan Williams returns after topping East Carolina in tackles (77) a year ago, while the Pirates’ secondary brings back three of its four starters in free safety Travon Simmons (has opened 24 of last 25 games) along with cornerbacks Colby Gore and Corey Seargent.
After planning on spending its first two practice sessions in shorts and helmets, Montgomery said ECU would progress to pads Friday.