ECU'S Mike Houston: Southern Nash grad Tahj Deans had best practice Wednesday


East Carolina's Tahj Deans celebrates after scoring during their game against Old Dominion on Sept. 29, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)


The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Refreshed East Carolina football players returned to the practice fields Wednesday morning amid chilly and windy conditions.

The setting was timely, according to coach Mike Houston.

“I was very pleased with the way we responded and very pleased with the way we practiced today,” said Houston, whose squad focused on watching film and attending meetings Sunday, Monday and Tuesday after Saturday’s practice in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. “We had more guys competing today than we have had in past practices, and it was a chilly morning, which was good. I told them that those games next November could be critical ball games and we are playing for something pretty special, so we have to be able to thrive in cold weather.”

The end of Saturday’s practice saw the Pirates’ offensive line and running backs, led by Darius Pinnix, churn out meaningful yards.

On Wednesday, Houston was asked about the play of his receivers, and he lauded a few players. In addition to the consistency being shown by senior Deondre Farrier and some big-play potential by J.H. Rose product Mydreon Vines, Houston pointed out the performance by Tahj Deans.

“I had a conversation with Tahj Deans (Tuesday) and really challenged him in some areas, and I thought he came out and had his best practice of the year today,” Houston said of the 6-foot-2, 184-pound junior and Southern Nash High School graduate. “For him, as a big guy, he won the 50-50 balls down the sideline and in the back of the end zone. Those are the ones he has to win.”

The receiving corps also features Blake Proehl, who has been active in running routes and at practice despite wearing a red non-contact jersey, and December signee Jsi Hatfield.

Farrier and Proehl were second and third, respectively, in receptions and receiving yards for the 3-9 Pirates a year ago behind then-senior Trevon Brown. Hatfield, a 5-9 speedy inside receiver and in-state signee from Southern Alamance, now dons the No. 88 formerly worn by Brown.

With returnees set at quarterback and running back and other positions, defensive line and receiver are two areas with a lot of fluid rotations as depth is being established.

ECU will practice again Friday before holding a full scrimmage Saturday.

“I am so positive today because we are starting to see more guys come along,” Houston said of his team’s overall depth. “You are getting more and more depth because you can see you can count on some guys, but the guys who have been doing a great job have to continue to do a great job. We talked about that today, but I think we are getting to know our team and our team is getting to know us.

“I would be really disappointed if we didn’t have a great Friday and Saturday.”