GREENVILLE — Scottie Montgomery and his staff have a championship vision for the East Carolina football program.
It’s a vision that for a majority of those on the Pirates’ roster, requires a certain amount of imagination to see.
Tyshon Dye and Korrin Wiggins aren’t among that group.
The two graduate transfers know exactly what it takes to get to the top of the college football mountain, having been there in each of the past two seasons at their former school, Clemson.
Though both figure to play major roles on the field in their only season at ECU — Dye in the offensive backfield and Wiggins on defense — their most significant contributions could turn out to be their national championship experience.
It’s an asset that could go a long way toward turning Montgomery’s vision for the Pirates into a reality.
“We want to take people that have won,” Montgomery said recently “I think that’s very important when you’re going after graduates at certain positions.You want people that have led teams and you want people with a background and a history of being great people away from the field.”
Dye and Wiggins check all those boxes, more so than the other three graduate transfers Montgomery brought in to help improve from last year’s 3-9 disappointment, primarily because of the winning. Both made contributions, albeit modest, to Clemson’s national championship team in 2016.
Dye carried the ball 21 times for 109 yards and a touchdown as a backup to All-ACC running back Wayne Gallman while Wiggins, once a starter earlier in his career, made 13 tackles in seven games in his first season back from ACL surgery.
Although the surroundings and expectations are vastly different from those at their former school, the feeling that comes from strapping on their pads, heading out to ECU’s practice field and playing the game they love is therapeutically familiar to the former Tigers.
“Football is football and there are great programs all across the country,” Wiggins said. “I feel like East Carolina and Coach Mo have a great foundation here. It’s not that much of a transition. Tyshon is my roommate, so it’s cool that we can bring our culture and add it to what they have here.”
At the same time, both Wiggins and Dye have eagerly embraced the new culture they’ve joined and are anxious to do what they can to get the Pirates headed back in the right direction.
Dye said he’s especially impressed with the passion and work ethic displayed by his new coaches and teammates.
“We joke about how it’s different between Clemson and here,” Dye said. “The same with our roommate Gaelin (Elmore, a defensive end from Minnesota). It’s the same because he’s a graduate transfer as well. We just talk about how things have changed, but all for the better.”
One of the biggest changes is the amount of playing time Dye and Wiggins figure to get at ECU.
Dye, in particular, is looking forward to the chance at being a primary ballcarrier after a back injury during his true freshman season helped turn him into something of an afterthought at Clemson.
No longer buried on the Tigers’ depth chart, the former four-star prospect is now the key to improving an anemic Pirates’ ground attack that ranked 10th in the 12-team American Athletic Conference in rushing last season. He is currently sharing time on the first team with traditional transfer Derrell Scott from Tennessee.
“From what I’ve seen, I think he’s a big-time Division I back,” ECU offensive coordinator Tony Petersen said of the 6-foot-11, 220-pound Dye. “He’s got the height, the size, the weight, the speed, the moves. When I was at Minnesota we had (future NFL draft picks) Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber, and that’s what they looked like. We’ll see. But he looks good.”
Wiggins has made just as positive an initial impression after committing to the Pirates in mid-June.
Fully healthy again, he’s stepped right as the nickel back in ECU’s new 4-2-5 scheme, Combined with Auburn transfer Tim Irvin and veteran holdovers Bobby Fulp and Travon Simmons, his arrival gives the Pirates a secondary that has the potential to be one of the best in the AAC.
But playing time isn’t the only reason Wiggins decided to leave Clemson for ECU.
“I have ties here,” he said. “My brother played here, graduated from here, so I’m East Carolina all the way.”
Reese Wiggins was a wide receiver who caught 80 passes for 1,012 yards and eight touchdowns for the Pirates from 2011-13 before signing with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent. Like his brother, Korrin Wiggins is a product of Hillside High in Durham.
“That played a big part in it, because I really wanted to come back home,” the younger Wiggins said. “My parents traveled four hours to Clemson every home game and they’d get back about three in the morning. I got the ring, pretty much accomplished the main goal of every college athlete by getting my degree, so now that I had the chance I wanted to do it closer to home.”
Regardless of where they’re playing — close to home or far away, defending national champion or building program looking to make a breakthrough — the goal and the vision remain the same.
“We grind just as hard as anywhere else,” Dye said. “We just have to have the mindset that we’re better than anybody we play. I feel like the sky’s the limit here and we can go as far as we want to go.”