ECSU opens 2018 football campaign against Central State (Ohio)

New head coach will lead the team today

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Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) head football coach Anthony Jones (right) and assistant coach Keith Saine watch a play during a practice at Roebuck Stadium, Tuesday.


By Malcolm Shields
Sports Editor

Saturday, September 1, 2018

After an offseason that shook up the Elizabeth City State football team, it is now back to football.

The 2018 Vikings will take the field today in their home opener against Central State (Ohio) at Roebuck Stadium.

Leading up to today's opener, first-year ECSU head coach Anthony Jones acknowledged that there is still work to be done.

“It's kind of mixed. We have good days. We have bad days,” Jones told the Daily Advance on Tuesday. “I'm not where I want to be.”

The coach added that time away that the team had during to the transition has led to some inconsistencies.

Jones was named head coach in April after the ouster of former head coach Earnest Wilson.

“I'm trying to get us to be a consistent group,” he said.

As for the the quarterback battle, Jones said that the group that includes De'Abrie Smith and Kendrick Patterson were competing.

Quarterback Daquan Neal led ECSU the previous three seasons.

“We have a couple of guys that are competing,” Jones said. “They both will probably play. We'll see what happens. It's been an interesting battle. We'll see what we got as we play the game.”

Smith is a junior from Palatka, Florida, while Patterson is a freshman from Winston-Salem Mount Tabor High School.

In the final week of fall camp, Jones noted that Smith had an edge in the competition.

“Both of them are showing themselves well,” Jones said.

Jones noted that the wide receiver corps and the first-team defense have been good during camp.

ECSU senior linebacker Miacah Cooper said that the defense has gotten better during fall camp.

“We are taking it one day at a time,” he said.

Cooper, who was third on the team in total tackles last season, said that he likes the unit's tenacity and its will to win.

On the line, Jones noted that the team is young, while the running backs are a “mixed bag.”

Jones acknowledged that depth is an issue, but said that they will line up with the players they have and make it work.

The coaching staff experienced turnover.

Tim Orr, who served as an assistant coach on Wilson's staff last season, is not with the program this fall.

After Wilson was let go as head coach by the university in March, Orr was selected to oversee the program until Jones' arrival.

Jones did not provide specifics on why Orr is not with the program. Instead referring that Orr be asked why he isn't with the program.

Jones noted that he did meet Orr when he arrived to Elizabeth City.

“I thought that he did some good things to maintain a few things,” Jones said. “He was very helpful to me and informative.”

Jones added coach Keith Saine as the assistant head coach and wide receivers coach and Marlon Watson as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.

“They are veteran coaches,” Jones said. “And we needed some veteran coaches that are discipline and know how to coach. They understand what winning is. We have to develop that culture here.”

Another coach that was added to the staff is no stranger to ECSU.

Marcus White, who served on former ECSU head coach Waverly Tillar's staff in 2015, returns to the Vikings sideline as the defensive line coach.

Returning assistants from the 2017 season include Zak Poole and Jonathan Brown.

Although Jones has not been a head coach since his last season at Football Championship Subdivision Alabama A&M in 2013, and had been out of coaching at the college level since 2016 when he was the offensive coordinator at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Jones said that the time away was needed and he is all-in with ECSU.

“I can't do this half,” he said. “I have to do it all the way. There is work that has to be done.”

Cooper is one of a group of players on the team that has been led by three head coaches in the past four seasons.

“All you do is just adjust,” Cooper said of the coaching changes. “You don't complain about it. You just keep moving on.”

Cooper acknowledged that he liked Jones' winning spirit.

The linebacker referenced the different levels of football that Jones has been at is something the program hasn't seen recently.

“He brings a different feel to the game,” Cooper said.

Central State posted a 1-9 overall record last season.

One of those losses was to ECSU as the Vikings defeated the Marauders 34-23 at Central State.