East Carolina football coach Scottie Montgomery took the first step toward improving a defense that ranked dead last in the FBS this season by hiring David Blackwell as the Pirates’ defensive coordinator.
An ECU graduate who was a member of the school’s 1992 Peach Bowl championship team, Blackwell has been the co-defensive coordinator at Jacksonville State for the past four seasons. He is the third man to hold the Pirates’ defensive coordinator position since the start of the 2017 season.
Blackwell will have his work cut out for him trying to clean up the mess that ECU’s defense was this season. The Pirates allowed 45 points per game and 541.7 yards per game while going 3-9 under Kenwick Thompson and Robert Prunty, who took over after just two games.
Their 11 sacks were the second fewest in the country.
By contrast, Blackwell’s defense at Jacksonville State was among the best among FCS programs over the past four seasons.
During a span of 51 games, the Gamecocks ranked first nationally among FCS programs in defensive completion percentage (50.2), second in pass efficiency defense (105.5) and rushing yards allowed per carry (3.0), third in total defense (284.1 ypg) and yards per pass attempt (5.93), sixth in rushing defense (104.4 ypg), eighth in scoring defense (18.8 ppg) and ninth in sacks (133).
This season they ranked No. 3 nationally in total defense at 239.6 yards allowed per game and were No. 7 in scoring at just 15.0 points per game while recording 28 sacks on the way to a 10-2 record and a spot in the FCS playoffs.
Jacksonville State was 43-8 record with four straight Ohio Valley Conference championships during Blackwell’s time there. Its 32-game conference winning streak is currently the longest in Division I football.
Those numbers are only part of the reason why Montgomery thinks Blackwell is the right man to fix ECU’s broken defense.
“While David’s credentials speak volumes about his accomplishments on the defensive side of the ball, his endearment for this program and ingrained Pirate spirit is unequivocal,” Montgomery said in a statement announcing Blackwell’s hiring. “We’re excited to welcome him home and ready to embrace a new era of relentless pursuit that uniquely ties into our past.”
Blackwell arrived at ECU as an offensive lineman in 1989 and played in only six games before suffering a career-ending neck injury during his freshman season. He stayed close to the program, starting his coaching career as an undergraduate assistant to Steve Logan in 1992 before being hired full-time in charge of the Pirates’ rush linebackers from 1993-95.
His other coaching stops include assignments at Illinois State, Pittsburgh, Clemson, South Florida and Fordham. He has helped his teams to 11 bowls games and is a two-time FCS Coordinator of the Year finalist.