By Nathan Summers
Monday, September 9, 2013
East Carolina’s men in the middle will be stuck on the outside looking in when the Pirate football team hosts Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Starting inside linebackers Jeremy Grove and Kyle Tudor were both felled by injuries in last Thursday’s win over Florida Atlantic, and both have been ruled out for the 2-0 Pirates’ clash with the 1-1 Hokies at noon inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
At Monday’s weekly press conference, ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill said it was unclear how long Grove’s chest injury and Tudor’s knee injury would take to heal. He said he felt like both players would be spoiling to get back onto the field, but did not specify the severity of either injury.
“Those two guys will do everything we want rehab-wise, and they’re tough, tough football players,” McNeill said of Grove and Tudor, who had nine tackles apiece in the Pirates’ first two games. “Those guys could play in any era and I’m looking forward to getting them back. Even (Sunday) night, they were leaders and their leadership is very valuable.”
The losses mean the first substantial test of the season for the Pirates’ defensive depth.
Promising sophomore Zeek Bigger (nine tackles, sack) will be thrown into a high-pressure situation on Saturday at Grove’s mike position, though he’ll be joined by senior Ty Holmes (four tackles, fumble recovery TD), whose experience and big play capability will be more valuable than ever.
In place of Tudor at the buck position, junior backup Brandon Williams was already off to a hot start with 11 tackles and two tackles for loss, but now will be vaulted into the starting role with true freshman Devaris Brunson backing him.
McNeill thought Brunson was up for the challenge of playing immediately back in August camp, and now will give the freshman the same chance he’s already given to rookie wide receivers Davon Grayson and Isaiah Jones this season.
“He’s gotten some first team reps going against our first team offense, and we had a plan to not redshirt him, so we gave him quality reps and exposed him to the package,” McNeill said of the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Brunson.
The other two injuries for the Virginia Tech clash carried over from last week. Defensive back Terrell Richardson remains out indefinitely with a knee injury while defensive end Jeton Beavers is questionable with a right leg injury.
McNeill said the team gives valuable reps to emerging players like Brunson — whether they’re redshirting on the scout team or playing — during Thursday night live scrimmages. The fourth-year head coach noted that true freshman offensive lineman Larry Williams could play now, especially after battling with ECU’s defensive linemen during such scrimmage situations.
“We don’t let guys sit around because they’re redshirting and not playing,” McNeill said. “Those guys get reps to show each side of the ball good looks.”
Although confidence is high in the physical abilities of players like Brunson and Bigger, McNeill knows he can’t inject them with the same level of experience as Grove and Tudor, a junior and senior, respectively.
“What you miss and you can’t replace is the battles, the experiences that Kyle Tudor and Jeremy Grove have gone through,” McNeill said. “But in anticipation, through the development of depth and competition, we’ve involved Brandon and Zeek and those guys on special teams, and all live reps are good reps. Our game plan won’t change, and we expect those guys to come in here … and we expect no drop off, not one bit.”
Contact Nathan Summers at email@example.com or 252-329-9595.
via The Daily Reflector.