Bulls mesmerized by latest guest speaker
Coach Willie Taggart, who has made a practice of bringing a guest speaker to address the Bulls each week, might have outdone himself Monday.
Former Ohio State TB Maurice Clarett, flourishing in his second life as an entrepreneur and public speaker following a foiled pro career and prison stint, addressed the Bulls for more than hour Monday.
Those on hand say the team was mesmerized by his story, which included a national title at OSU as a freshman, an unsuccessful attempt to leap to the NFL in '03, and some high-profile arrests that led to a 3 1/2-year incarceration.
"He spoke for an hour and you could've heard a pin drop," defensive coordinator Tom Allen said.
"He was just talking the whole time and he had their attention because he walks in their shoes. He was a guy that was a big-time name...and then it just got taken away because of his choices. And he was very honest with them and talked to them very straightforward, and they were listening."
ON THE MEND: Even as reports out of Greenville, N.C., indicate East Carolina may be healthier than it has been in weeks, the Bulls also appear near full strength. On Wednesday, co-offensive coordinator Danny Hope confirmed QB Quinton Flowers (thigh) is "farther along" than he was last week. TB Marlon Mack (hamstring) and TB D'Ernest Johnson (knee) also are healthier now than they were heading into last week's game at Navy, Hope added.
WARY OF ECU: Though East Carolina (4-5, 2-3 American Athletic Conference) is coming off a dreadful 31-13 loss at Connecticut, both Bulls coordinators insist the Pirates remain one of the most athletic teams they'll encounter.
Hope noted the size of the Pirates' defensive front (a pair of 315-pound nose tackles) and speed of the outside linebackers in their 3-4 scheme. Senior OLB Montese Overton ranks second in the conference with 7.5 sacks.
"If you were to take some of those guys down to a combine and test 'em out, they would be top tier number-wise, with great vertical jumps and speed," Hope said.
Allen, meantime, said ECU's receiving corps is the best the Bulls have seen to this point. Six-foot-1 junior Isaiah Jones (70 catches, 786 yards, three TDs) and 6-6 TE Bryce Williams (41 catches, 417 yards) lead the group.
"Obviously they beat Virginia Tech (35-28), and at the time, you didn't realize how good Florida was, and they played them to a one-score game at The Swamp (losing, 31-24)," Allen said. "Very impressed with their skill level."
AUDIBLE: "It's really hard with two days (in pads) to get ready for 'em. ... But I thought our kids competed, and they fought. They didn't break us. They break a lot of people in the fourth quarter, we just didn't come up with the plays we had to have as a team. ... But we had our shot." -- Allen on his unit's effort at Navy