Traveon Freshwater is perhaps one of the more athletically gifted and versatile players on ECU’s football roster. Coming up through the prep ranks, Freshwater found the field in a variety of ways, including at linebacker and defensive end on that side of the football, and as a running back on offense.

With the kind of numbers he put up in high school, it is hard to say at which position he excelled the most. A four year starter at Northeastern High School, Freshwater rushed for better than 4,700 yards across 48 total games, while racking up three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.

By those numbers alone, Freshwater should have ended up playing for Donnie Kirkpatrick’s offense, not Blake Harrell’s defense for the Pirates. As special a player as Freshwater was carrying the football, he found heaps of success tracking down opposing ball carriers and quarterbacks.

In his prep career, Freshwater booked 482 total tackles, including 80 sacks. Twenty-nine times he logged at least 10 tackles in a game, and eclipsed five stops in all 48 career games.

That success, which included back-to-back seasons of at least 150 tackles, carried Freshwater to be considered a four-star recruit by Rivals.com, making him a prized commit for the Pirates’ coaching staff a year ago.

Following a redshirt season with ECU, Freshwater has been battling some health issues that have limited him in preseason camp. While the Pirates’ football team remains idle after identifying 10 positive COVID-19 cases associated with the program last week, Freshwater was just beginning to find his groove after getting healthy.

“He was off to a slow start at the beginning of camp, but he was out with us everyday last week,” Harrell told Patrick Johnson on 94.3 The Game last Monday. “So he was back at it and had a good scrimmage on Friday. Still picking up a few things, a few things are still a little new to him. But he’s getting there. He’s obviously a very talented kid and a guy that we put in special situations package-wise — third down situations — that we think can be a difference-maker there.”

Freshwater is listed at 6’1”, 268 pounds on ECU’s online roster, meaning the Pirates’ coaching staff has bulked him up in his initial year on campus. That obviously points toward them using him as an edge rusher, or possibly as an interior defensive lineman moving forward.

Even with his increased weight, Harrell has liked the speed and athleticism he has seen from Freshwater at this point in preseason practice. While Harrell’s scheme relies on a lot of defensive rotation, it also figures to be very aggressive in rushing the passer.

Having a guy that racked up 27 sacks as a junior in high school will no doubt help Harrell get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, while also stopping successful running attacks.

“He is just a guy that can — whether they hand the ball off, he’s chasing the ball carrier down, or getting to the quarterback — he’s a guy that you can ask to do a lot of different things,” Harrell said. “He’s not just a hold the gap type of d-lineman. He’s a guy that you want to get free and rush the passer and keep in on third down, but he’s also pretty good against the run.”

The Pirates will be replacing all four of their defensive line starters from a season ago and will likely turn to Freshwater for significant reps at one of the defensive end positions in 2020. With those reps, Freshwater will have the opportunity to showcase why he is considered one of the better defensive recruits to come through ECU in recent years.

Listen to Patrick Johnson’s full interview with Blake Harrell that first aired on 94.3 The Game last Monday below:

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