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ECU opens up quarterback spot

ECU might have a new starter at QB soon

NCAA Football: North Carolina at East Carolina
ECU quarterback Reid Herring will have to battle with Kingsley Ifedi and Holton Ahlers this week in practice.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

After East Carolina University’s tough 49-6 loss at the University of Temple on Saturday, one in which almost nothing went right, head coach Scottie Montgomery said he will be reevaluating the quarterback position this week in practice.

“It will be open competition. It’s not about us not naming a starter, we need to see who can play the best in the game plan that we created for all of them and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Montgomery said.

Quarterback Reid Herring started against Temple and had his worst performance of the season, throwing 17-for-31 for 112 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Herring was benched in the second half, and backup Kingsley Ifedi went 1-for-4 for eight yards, and Holton Ahlers went 0-for-4 but ran for 56 yards on five carries.

Montgomery said that the offense has been one-dimensional with Herring on the field and that Herring needs to use his running ability more often and take what the defense gives him, such as an eight-yard run when the receivers are well-covered.

“Offensively, one of the things we have to do is be a complete offense. We’ve gotten so one-dimensional with Reid at times, because he’s not using one of his greatest gifts. Until he starts using one of his greatest gifts, being able to run the football, that’s the way you’re going to look.

Montgomery admitted that the offense has become a bit predictable in the sense that, the passing game has been directed toward Herring, and the running part has been directed toward Ahlers mostly, but also Ifedi when he’s played.

Montgomery said ECU’s gameplan at quarterback going forward will be directed toward all three quarterbacks and what they can do well.

“When you look at 190 yards of offense and about a third of it coming in one play from one player, another good decision coming from another player, and a lot of plays not going how we would have liked from another player, it’s time we paid attention to it,” Montgomery said.

The open competition at the quarterback spot may change ECU’s practice routine a bit, according to Montgomery, but not any change in the amount of hours ECU practices as that would be a violation of NCAA rule. The goal of the change will be to ensure each player gets the right amount of reps.

Montgomery said that ECU’s adjustment at quarterback this week isn’t a knee-jerk reaction, but instead the Pirates getting ahead of something, like the poor performance against Temple, before it becomes a trend.

Montgomery admitted that Herring is not at 100% right now in terms of his health, but added that nobody is by the fifth or sixth week of the season. Montgomery said now ECU is not only looking at the way Herring plays in games and practices, but in the way that he leads the team.

“You have to have a sense of urgency in the way that you lead,” Montgomery said. “You have to put your thumb down on people in routes, put your thumb down on people in protection. That’s what great quarterbacks do. That’s what we need to see him do. I think some of our other kids have that quality and we need to see that quality on the field.”

Montgomery said ECU could still use all three of its quarterbacks potentially, but that goal is in finding who can best display that leader role at the starter spot.

“We will still potentially use multiple people. But I want the guy that has the quality leadership that we talked about, that gives us the best chance to win to be in the game most of the time. That’s what we want,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery said he was impressed with the approach of the team in their Sunday meetings, saying the players were locked in on fundamentals and helping each other improve. That includes being impressed with Ahlers and Ifedi paying attention and helping the quarterbacks try and figure out the defense, according to Montgomery.

ECU has Monday and Tuesday off for fall break, but the Pirates are still around preparing. Montgomery said that ECU will ramp up the speed of practices starting on Wednesday. Everyone will be paying attention to which quarterback leads the Pirates attempt to bounce back against the University of Houston Saturday night, but Montgomery was clear in calling it an open competition, not a demotion.

To be clear, we’re not benching anybody,” Montgomery said. “We’re trying to see who’s the guy that will go out and perform at the highest level to give the rest of the team the opportunity to win. That’s where we are.”