ECU confirmed today that former USF defensive coordinator Rick Smith is the Pirates' new man at the same capacity.
Greg Hudson, who recently chose Purdue over ECU, and Smith were the masterminds behind the Pirates' dominant defenses that helped them win back to back Conference USA championships in 2008 and 2009.
"It's very exciting," said Smith. "I think it's a great opportunity for me. I'm riding in here on a white horse. I hope I leave on a white horse."
Smith, 64, owns a house nearby and went on to say that this area is home to him and that he plans to retire here.
"I wanted to come back here and be a (grandfather) to (my) three grandkids," said Smith. "The bonus is I get to coach at East Carolina. Of all the places I've been, this is my favorite. I think the fans here are better than anywhere I've ever been...This is a special place."
That is high remarks given the experience he brings to the table; over 41 years coaching that include five years spent as ECU’s secondary coach from 2005-2009. Smith followed former ECU head coach Skip Holtz to the University of South Florida and has been the Bulls defensive backs coach since their joint departure.
In Smith’s first year at ECU, the Pirates defense ranked in the top 20 in the nation in pass defense (allowing 184.9 yards per game through the air). He was also responsible for allowing just 72 passing yards from All-America quarterback Pat White when ECU defeated WVU, 24-3, in 2008.
Other notable achievements while at ECU:
• In Smith’s first four years as secondary coach, the team registered a total of 70 interceptions (15 interceptions in 2005 followed by 16, 17 and 22 the following years).
• In 2006, all four members of ECU’s secondary earned All-Conference honors.
• In the 2008 Conference USA Championship against Tulsa, Smith’s secondary grabbed five interceptions. Tulsa had the nation’s top offense heading into the C-USA title game.
This is good news for a Pirate team that desperately needed help to sure up its secondary unit. ECU finished 107th in the nation in pass defense last season, including giving up 324 yards through the air in the New Orleans Bowl loss to Louisiana-Lafayette and 419 passing yards in the season finale against Marshall.