Davondre Robinson

ECU's Davondre Robinson tackles a UNC ball carrier in a previous game.

Defensive backs are a fundamental piece of the East Carolina University football team. They keep the endzone a no-fly zone and are the last line of defense against the offense’s run game.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, teams all across the country have been unable to meet for face-to-face practices. Instead, the Pirate’s team continues to host video meetings with players to stay mentally prepared for the upcoming season.

“The thing about the game of football is that there are more games lost than won just because of the mental aspect,” cornerbacks coach Steve Ellis said. “I think those guys will come back into this season a little bit sharper from a mental aspect because they are getting to learn the defense inside and out.”

Last season, the ECU defensive backs were responsible for just nine interceptions, led by freshman Ja’Quan McMillian and junior Davondre Robinson with three each. Robinson was the leading tackler among the defensive back group with 40 solo tackles and 71 total tackles.

Overall, the Pirates were near the bottom of the conference in defending against the pass last year, allowing 261.6 passing yards a game, according to ESPN. They only beat out Southern Methodist University and the University of Houston out of the 12 teams in the American Athletic Conference.

There is clearly room to grow defensively for the Pirates. The team only won four games in the 2019 season, and if they want to improve on that number, the Pirates need to create stops on the defensive end. Ranking so low on pass defense, improvement starts with the defensive backs and it seems the Pirates have no place to go but up.

Video meetings can only do so much for the team. Without repetition out on the field, all the knowledge of the game will go to waste. The effects of the pandemic will test teams across the nation based on how well they have adapted to the constant changes, and the Pirates must be up for the challenge.

As far as when the team will be able to take the field for practice, the specific date is still unknown. Safeties coach Tripp Weaver said there may be some dates in July where the team will be allowed to practice, but limitations on practice will be based on Phase 3 guidelines.

“I think we’ve got the majority of our playbook already installed,” Weaver said. “Now going and doing it and just knowing what to do are two different things. That's the next phase we’re in. Getting these guys out there on the field in July so we can start seeing them execute the calls and then start making evaluations on who can do what.”

Preparations for the 2020 season will continue as the Pirates look forward to finally hitting the practice field.

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