East Carolina Looking for Marked Improvement Defensively in 2017

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East Carolina defensive coordinator Kenwick Thompson talked about some of the challenges and basics needed to have a more representative defense when ECU tees it up in game one against James Madison in early September.

“The schematic part of it. We try to get the best players on the field so we feel good about the people we’ve got out there in those positons, the guys we’ve moved around,” said Thompson, “That’s the biggest deal is the learning curve of learning new positions.”

One of the returning defensive players who could find himself playing more around the line of scrimmage is 6-5 Kernersville junior Yiannis Bowden who moves from outside linebacker. Last season Bowden had 42 tackles including 7.5 for a loss to go along with one interception. At defensive end he will be playing for Robert Prunty. Bowden came into this year's spring camp with some familiarity with the new ECU defensive line coach.

“He was my recruiting coach at Cincinnati, so it was like oh yeah, it’s cool. He’s a real good guy. He pushes us to our max and I like it a lot. It’s pretty good,” Bowden said, “We’re playing faster and we’re all trying to learn our defense. We’re trying to have a better scheme than we did last year so that we can be more productive.”

The mental aspect of it is big. Being able to react and play within the structure of the defensive scheme with a minimum amount of confusion will hopefully lead to more positive results.

“As of right now in the middle of a week when we’re heavy into install, we’ve got quite a bit on their minds," said Kenwick Thompson, "It’s a process of making sure the guys know what to do so when we get to the end of the week we can be concentrating on execution.”

Last season ECU ranked 110th in in the nation in points allowed at 36 points per game. Thompson talked about some of the biggest expectations that he and the ECU staff are placing on players up front to produce marked improvement defensively.

“We’ve got to be able to put pressure on the quarterback. We’ve got to be able to get after the quarterback on third down and affect the quarterback in several different ways and then also be able to tackle.” Thompson told, “The game hasn’t changed much as far as what it takes in order to play good football. You’ve got to be able to get lined up, run to the ball and tackle, so in everything we’re doing, we’re making sure that we don’t do so much that we forget about that.”

With the move from a 3-4 to more of a front man front, the hope is to get more hats on the quarterback and cause more disruption at the point of contact.

“The goal is to get pressure on the quarterback and at the same time we’ve got to have enough balance to make sure that we spread that stress around whether that be up front or in the back end of the secondary,” Thompson said, “We need to have the ability to be able to do several different things in this league because of the offenses. Everybody has variety,” Thompson told PI, “In third down situations we have to be able to affect the quarterback.”

More pressure up front could equate to less time to cover in the secondary and thus taking a little of the pressure off of the defensive backfield to cover quite as long as in the recent past.

“Well it has to because rush and coverage goes together. It’s not one man’s job in order to win on third down,” Thompson told PI, “Sometimes up front has to do something, sometimes the back has to be in coverage a little longer, but that stress has to be spread along the entire unit.”