East Carolina University sophomore quarterback Reid Herring was a full participant during Wednesday’s practice at the Cliff Moore Practice Facility, after sitting out Tuesday’s practice with an ankle injury suffered in the loss to the University of South Florida last Saturday.
Herring should be fine to play this Saturday against Old Dominion University, but head coach Scottie Montgomery indicated all three ECU quarterbacks could play.
“The good is that our quarterback took every single snap today," Montgomery said. "He looked great today. I don't know if he's 100 percent because we didn't run him on many quarterback runs today. We did move the pocket, he did a lot of things well. I still would expect to see another quarterback in the game at certain times."
The backup quarterbacks redshirt freshman Kingsley Ifedi and freshman Holton Ahlers got more reps in practice this week with Herring limited. Ifedi has yet to play since the offensive series he played in the season opener against North Carolina A&T. Montgomery said ECU was close to putting Ifedi in during the second half against USF, but Herring convinced the staff his mobility wouldn’t be limited and stayed in.
Ahlers meanwhile was a big part of the ECU running attack. Ahlers finished with 12 runs for 54 yards and his third touchdown run of the season. Ahlers again attempted just two passes, and has yet to throw the ball regularly.
Montgomery said ECU is not concerned with Holton Ahlers being casted as a run-only quarterback. Ahlers is the best option ECU has in short yardage situations, according to Montgomery.
"It's really not about the running package for Holton," Montgomery said. "A lot of people are asking questions about the running package or what are we doing with him. In certain situations, we just feel really comfortable with him. The more we feel more comfortable with him in situations, and with Kingsley in situations that are not running or short-distance situations, they'll play more."
Montgomery is confident in either quarterback moving forward. The extra practice reps this week should allow Montgomery to have more confidence in putting either quarterback out onto the field.
"We're trying to bring Holton along as fast as we can. We felt like Kingsley is in a good spot. They did a good job today. I was really, really happy with the way they went through the day,” Montgomery said.
Perhaps affected by the ankle, Herring had his least efficient performance of the season. Herring finished 21-for-48, for a 44 percent completion percentage, 253 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
"He was much better against UNC than at South Florida," offensive coordinator Tony Petersen said. "We had a road game versus a good conference opponent and for some reason, he didn't have the same game. Now, it's his third game. He's still a young quarterback. It's going to be a rollercoaster with a young quarterback. There are going to be some ups and downs. What we've got to do is try to get it on more of an even keel right there.”
Herring said after the game Saturday it was frustrating for the offense to not score more often, as is its job. Part of that can be contributed to the cornerbacks of USF, who Petersen called the best cornerbacks that ECU will play all season. Wide receiver coach Keith Gaithers said he would have liked to see more out of the receivers.
Montgomery said the game plan was to maintain possession of the football as long as possible and to control the run game. ECU had 156 rushing yards to USF’s 115, which would have been much lower without the 80 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. ECU ran 96 plays compared to 52 by USF and had 38 minutes of possession compared to USF’s 21.
"This was the type of game we wanted. We wanted a long, low-scoring game and to run the football effectively,” Montgomery said. “Unfortunately, we did all those things, but we did not win the football game. We're in a position now where we're a much better football team, there's no question about it. Our playmakers have to make plays in some of those critical situations, so we can change the outcome of such a tight ball game on the road."
Regardless of which quarterback is on the field, look for ECU to involve more throws across the middle of the field and to involve the running backs more. Montgomery said it is important to get playmakers the ball in space, and that running backs Hussein Howe and Anthony Scott are two of ECU’s best playmakers who need the ball more.