East Carolina University football is making big changes quickly after finishing a second 3-9 season, hiring David Blackwell as defensive coordinator effective today.
Most recently, Blackwell served as the defensive coordinator at Jacksonville State in Alabama, a Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse that finished 10-2 under his defensive control. He was also a player in the 1992 Peach Bowl Championship team for ECU, along with a pair of Liberty Bowl appearances.
"While David's credentials speak volumes about his accomplishments on the defensive side of the ball, his endearment for this program and ingrained Pirate spirit is unequivocal," head coach Scottie Montgomery said. "We're excited to welcome him home and ready to embrace a new era of relentless pursuit that uniquely ties into our past."
Blackwell also coached at Clemson University from 2003-08. As coach of the linebackers, the Tigers went to a bowl game every season. His 20-year coaching career also includes stops at Illinois State (1996-99), Pittsburgh University (2000-02), the University of South Florida (2009) and Fordham University (2012-13). Since 2013, Blackwell has been turning Jacksonville State into one of the most feared defenses in the nation, as his defense ranked among the top-10 in five defensive categories in the FCS: Third in rush defense at 75.6 ypg and total defense at 239.6 ypg, fifth in pass efficiency defense at 102.4, seventh in scoring defense at 15.0 ppg and 10th in third-down conversion percentage at 30.1 percent.
ECU's defense was a major problem all season. After just three games, right on the heels of a 56-20 loss at West Virginia University, the Pirates changed defensive coordinators. Kenwick Thompson was reassigned to a non-coaching position while defensive-line coach Robert Prunty assumed the role. The defense never got any better though, finishing 129 out of 129 in the FBS in terms of total defense. ECU allowed 6,500 yards this season, an average of 541.7 yards per game along with 45 points per game, which was also good for last place. Prunty was named head coach at Hampton University afterward on Dec.7.
Blackwell also helped lead the nation's second-biggest turnaround at Fordham, posting a 6-5 season after a 1-10 year just before his arrival.
ECU didn’t have a problem moving the ball and scoring points this season, but the defensive struggles ruined the season. Pirate fans will get a quick look at how far Blackwell brings this defense early next season as the Pirates kick things off against North Carolina A&T on Sept. 1 2018, before playing the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Virginia Tech in the first three weeks.