In the waning half-minute of Saturday’s loss to Georgia State, the Pirates were able to get some of their younger players valuable game reps.
Sophomore wide receiver Maceo Donald and freshman wide-out Taji Hudson were both targeted in the final three plays of the game by freshman quarterback Mason Garcia. In a game with ECU trailing by 20 points and 23 seconds on the clock, the 6’5”, 238-pound highly touted recruit took his first collegiate snap and picked up 10 yards with his legs.
ECU burnt its final timeout of the game with eight seconds remaining so Garcia could air one out, but both of his first two passes in purple and gold fell incomplete.
“That was the first time he had ever had a road game his entire life, his first college snaps ever,” head coach Mike Houston said. “Great attitude, enjoyable kid to be around, working his tail off. He’s getting better everyday. We’re getting him as many reps during the week as we can get him. We’ll continue to try to get him game reps when the situations arise.”
During preseason camp, Garcia beat out the incumbents for the back-up signal-caller role, one he shares with Alex Flinn on the Pirates’ depth chart every week. A four-star recruit according to Rivals.com, Garcia tossed for over 2,100 yards during his final prep season and showcased his arm during scrimmages and practices this preseason.
While Garcia may not be the guy who takes over for Holton Ahlers in the event of an injury this season, the Pirates are attempting to get the freshman ready as quickly as possible with reps in practice, and the occasional live ones during contests.
Despite his pedigree and accolades at the high school level, Houston will make sure Garcia works for everything he earns on the collegiate stage. For right now, that means being the understudy to Ahlers as he learns how to operate the Pirates’ offense.
In time, Garcia will likely either follow or surpass Ahlers as ECU’s starting quarterback, making game reps like he received on Saturday all the more important.
“We’re going out there playing to win and right now Holton’s experience and Holton’s ability gives us a better chance,” Houston said. “There will be a day when Mason Garcia is the starting quarterback here. When that day comes, he’ll be ready for it.”