Sept. 26, 2013
The East Carolina football season has already been shaped by the play of a few true freshmen.
Although a few first-year players on the ECU defense have been tapped as potentially seeing playing time this season, none have made a big splash yet like wide receivers Davon Grayson and Isaiah Jones have on the other side of the ball.
This weekend against in-state foe North Carolina, rookie cornerback DaShawn Benton might get the chance to be that player. Needing more depth on the boundary side behind starter Josh Hawkins and Detric Allen, defensive coordinator Rick Smith has been mulling the decision for weeks, and this week Benton will get the call.
The way the player describes it, waiting even three games before seeing the playing field counted as something of a mini redshirt season and helped him make some quick adjustments.
“I was a little disappointed at first about the redshirt, but I actually needed it,” Benton said. “It took me time to physically grow up and mentally be there and work hard. It took me to another level as far as my mindset and my game play.”
Suddenly, Benton is part of a fleet of freshmen defenders to see their redshirts dissolved early in the season. Joining him is linebacker Devaris Brunson and linemen Demetri McGill and Mike Myers.
Benton said he didn’t expect the opportunity, and that he had to learn the defensive scheme quickly and immediately apply what he was learning on the field.
“It was a matter of getting into the playbook with coaches whenever I had free time — after classes, sometimes I had to cut out lunch just to learn what I had to do and make sure I was doing it correctly,” said Benton, who despite being a Georgia native said he can feel the pulse of the UNC rivalry through his teammates and coaches. “Physically, I think I’ve got it.”
Smith has believed for some time that Benton was ready, but wanted to make sure burning his redshirt would be worth it.
“He’s playing his guts out and he’s as excited as he can be,” Smith said of Benton, a 6-foot, 175-pounder from Atlanta’s Grady High School. “He is a tremendous athlete and I’m excited to see him play because he will knock your tail off.”
Bring the blitz
As they fine tuned their game plan for UNC this week, ECU quarterback Shane Carden and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley both contended that they welcome the dozens of blitzes coming their way this season.
Now they just have to start burning the teams who bring them.
In ECU’s loss to Virginia Tech two weeks ago, the Hokies battered the Pirates with blitzes, but Riley pointed out that most of the season-high seven sacks against Carden were products of the VT front four.
“We picked up the blitz well and I though we had some opportunities to make some big plays against the blitz that we didn’t make, but more of our problems were with the four-man rush – hanging onto the ball a little bit too long, not being great in protection,” Riley said. “We were just one guy away the whole day. We’d have a guy wide open and not make the throw, or have everything set up and drop the ball or not run the right route.”
Carden agrees, saying he thinks those big plays are coming against all the blitzes and pressure.
“We looked at that, looked at the blitzes and exactly where to go, and I feel better and a lot more comfortable, seeing a lot of the stuff that North Carolina does,” Carden said of his film study with Riley during the team’s bye week and this week. “We have a great scheme this week and I’m very excited for Saturday.”
Contact Nathan Summers at email@example.com or 252-329-9595.