There is no doubt that during the off-season ECU had to retool on the defensive side of the football. All four starters from last year’s squad were gone, and so were important members of the secondary in Colby Gore and Daniel Charles.

Both Gore and Charles played significant snaps at the cornerback and safety positions, respectively as the Pirates lacked overall depth to properly rotate players and keep them fresh. During the winter, however, Mike Houston and his coaching staff fixed that problem, bringing in a slew of young talent to fill the depleted defensive ranks.

Among the group expected to upgrade the play of ECU’s back-end was JUCO transfer Robert Kennedy and Riverside Community College transfer Shawn Dourseau. Standouts at their respective schools, both Kennedy and Dourseau bring a combination of size and speed to the Pirates’ secondary.

In competition with some other new faces to ECU’s program, as well as a handful of returners, Dourseau beat out Davondre Robinson for a starting safety position and ended up booking eight tackles against UCF with two pass breakups.

“Especially in some of the two-back, 3-by-1 formations, he’s like another linebacker in there,” ECU defensive coordinator Blake Harrell said of Dourseau. “You get him in the box and you can use him in the blitz, he can do multiple things.”

Dourseau is the bigger of the two at 5’11” and 191 pounds and paced Riverside CC with seven interceptions during his redshirt freshman campaign in 2019. With that size, Harrell wants to use Dourseau to bring pressure on occasion, something he did about 60% of the time last weekend against UCF.

While Kennedy gives up some size to Dourseau, the Lackawanna College transfer finished ECU’s opener with seven tackles, including two pass breakups. His speed, according to Harrell, is what separates Kennedy from the pack and allows him to hang with quick receivers.

“They fly around, I mean, Robert Kennedy can run like the UCF kids can run,” Harrell said. “That’s a relief back there to have him and cover some ground. During camp he was a guy that had a lot of picks and a lot of interceptions, always around the ball. I think his time is coming where we’re going to see the ball end up in his hands.”

In ECU’s first scrimmage of the preseason, Kennedy picked off two passes as part of an impressive outing by the defense. Dourseau logged a pick of his own in the Pirates’ second scrimmage of camp, but the pair have yet to record their first career FBS interception.

Nevertheless, the addition of Dourseau and Kennedy showed up immediately last weekend. Both of them were at the top of ECU’s tackling chart, not an ideal indicator of how the game went for the Pirates, but their combined athleticism appears to be an upgrade over personnel of the past.

“It’s been nice to have those two guys that are new faces to our program and are certainly making impacts early on,” Harrell said. “We hope they continue to do that.”

ECU will kick-off against Georgia State on Saturday at noon inside Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

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