ECU football: Brunson emerging on both sides of ball

The Daily ReflectorNovember 13, 2013 

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UNC's T.J. Thorpe (5) is stopped by the East Carolina defense of Lamar Ivey (7), Warren Harvey (14), Montese Overton (51) and Devaris Brunson (34) after a 23-yard kick of return in the second quarter on Saturday September 28, 2013 in Chapel Hill, N.C.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com

— East Carolina offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said Devaris Brunson is one of the Pirates’ most talented players, but even that praise won’t keep Brunson from double duty.

“Linebacker is my natural position,” said Brunson, a freshman who came to East Carolina last spring and immediately impressed coach Ruffin McNeill, who decided Brunson was ready to play immediately.

But Brunson’s debut at linebacker was short-lived because he was quickly identified as the team’s leading candidate to replace injured senior tight end/fullback Zico Pasut.

Brunson hasn’t missed a beat.

“It hasn’t been a problem for me because basically it was a matter of injuries to the team, so I did it for the team and converted over,” said Brunson, who debuted at fullback on Oct. 12 at Tulane after it was learned Pasut was out for an extended time. “They asked me if it would be a problem for me to switch over, and I wanted to help the team out. There are still some things I’m working on, but it’s all coming simple to me.”

Brunson is no stranger to the backfield, having rushed for a team-best 839 yards as a senior at Lake City High in 2012.

He made eight tackles for the Pirates’ defense before making the change, and since then has made his first reception and delivered some punishing blocks on offense.

Now that he’s making strides in his new role – and with Pasut in his last year in the program – it will be more difficult for Riley to part company with the prized rookie.

Riley said Brunson’s immediate impact has been based on unselfishness and willingness to learn, but also on the 6-foot-1, 210-pound player’s physicality and raw talent.

“We put him in there just to kind of see his natural ability, and he has that, and he’s very physical and he’s worked hard and has gotten better and better at the position,” Riley said of Brunson. “He’s allowed us to continue doing some of the things we wanted to.”

As for what the future holds, Riley can’t help but wish he was hanging on to Brunson for the long term.

“He’s going to be such a good linebacker, but we’ll see,” Riley said. “Who knows, but if he’s going to go over there and play a ton on defense I’ve got no issue with it.”

According to McNeill, multitalented players such as Brunson are the order of the day in recruiting.

The fourth-year coach noted other recent signings – offensive lineman Larry Williams, cornerback DaShawn Benton and linebacker Pat Green – as players who were all recruited to fill numerous roles.

“You have to go that way with recruiting, where kids can double up,” McNeill said. “Some of the kids we have coming in next year are the same way due to scholarship (numbers) and team needs. It’s by design that we recruit that way.”

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