Traveon Freshwater, one of the more talented defensive recruits in recent ECU history, has officially made the transition to the tight end position, head coach Mike Houston confirmed on Monday.

In his time at Northeastern High School, Freshwater 482 tackles and 80 sacks on the defensive side of the football, earning three- and four-star prospect rankings. Tabbed as the 16th-best inside linebacker by 247Sports.com and the seventh-best weak side defender by Rivals.com, Freshwater had offers from Power 5 programs, but chose to attend ECU.

Freshwater redshirted in 2019 and did not record his first career tackle until the season-opener against UCF in September. In recent weeks, however, the 6’1” 268-pound redshirt freshman was removed from the two-deep at defensive tackle.

Throughout preseason camp, Freshwater battled some health-related issues and ended up getting behind in a competitive battle along the Pirates’ defensive front. Without the benefit of a spring practice to really get a hold on the personnel ahead of the season, Houston and his staff have shuffled numerous players to different positions before and during the campaign, the most notable being Jireh Wilson, Taji Hudson and now Freshwater.

“The thing that we didn’t get the opportunity with, particularly being one year into the program, is that spring practice last spring,” Houston said. “A lot of spring practice is figuring out who can help you where. I think you’re having a lot of that go on this fall. We’ve shuffled several of our young kids around. Traveon was not overly competitive at the defensive tackle position throughout the fall. Certainly Traveon has some God-given ability.”

With Freshwater’s name removed from the two-deep, the Pirates now go three-deep with true freshmen at one of their defensive tackle positions, a spot headlined by walk-on Elijah Morris. Three freshmen back up Chris Willis at defensive end, while ECU sports just two upperclassmen on its defensive line depth chart for Friday night’s matchup against Cincinnati.

While the timing of this transition is a bit shocking, Freshwater is no stranger to the offensive side of the ball. At the prep level, he racked up over 4,700 yards and 61 touchdowns as a running back. That number included three consecutive seasons rushing for 1,000 or more yards.

“He and I talked multiple times and the combination of trying to continue to develop that tight end room and, I think, Traveon had a desire to get back to the offensive side of the football,” Houston said. “It was kind of one of those things where there was a need there and it was something he was wanting to do, so we made that adjustment.”

Since Houston arrived in Greenville, there has been extra emphasis placed on the tight end position. Freshman Shane Calhoun was brought in during this recruiting cycle and has made an immediate impact, starting four of six games this season and catching three passes for 62 yards.

Zech Byrd has seen action in all six games this season, but Jeremy Lewis continues to battle injuries having not played in the last three contests.

While it will take some time to get Freshwater up to speed at his new position, the NCAA’s ruling on eligibility for this season means the redshirt freshman essentially gets another free year to develop and prepare himself for football at the collegiate level. With Freshwater’s talent, the Pirates just hope he can make an impact in some form or fashion during his time in purple and gold.

“It’ll probably be a year or so before you see how that adjustment plays out because it’s going to take time to develop him there at that position,” Houston said. “Certainly it was something he was motivated to do and I think it’s something that’ll give us some additional depth there at that position.”

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