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Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill Discusses The Upcoming Appalachian State Game
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John Wiley is in his sixth season on Ruffin McNeill’s staff as East Carolina’s associate head coach.
Wiley, who also provides a direct positional coaching role with the Pirate inside linebackers, closed out an illustrious 19-year tenure at Appalachian State that included seven Southern Conference titles and 12 FCS post-season appearances when joined the ECU program on Jan. 25, 2010.
It hasn’t taken long for Wiley, the architect of a Mountaineer defensive unit that produced 87 All-SoCon performers and played an integral role in three Football Championship Subdivision National Championships, to develop a similar reputation at ECU with an athletic and tactically-sound squad that has also quickly impacted the American Athletic Conference.
After inheriting an empty positional cupboard upon his arrival and directing walk-on Dustin Lineback to an 119-tackle season in 2010, Wiley’s tutelage of freshman Jeremy Grove a year later arguably represented the building of what many regard as one of the top inside linebacking corps nationally. Grove earned Freshman All-America honors from four publications and was selected Conference USA Freshman-of-the-Year after setting a Pirate first-year record with a team-leading 122 stops, an average of 11.1 per game - good for 10th among all FBS players.
In addition, Wiley provided a leadership role during the implementation of the Pirates’ new 3-4 scheme prior to the 2011 campaign allowed ECU to jump 64 places in the FBS total defense rankings when the dust settled in December, allowing 102.5 fewer yards per game than the previous season.
In 2012, his unit was responsible for one-third of ECU’s forced fumbles (four of 12) and played a key role for a rush defense that ranked fourth in the league and among the top 45 percent of all FBS programs. While Grove drew plenty of attention from opponent blocking schemes, the sophomore still topped the Pirates with 83 stops and stood among league leaders.
Wiley, along with the arrival of new coordinator Rick Smith, fine-tuned the Pirates’ run-halting efforts in 2013 to earn a No. 13 national rank by allowing a paltry league-low 116.7 ground yards per game. His All-Conference USA selections Zeek Bigger and Kyle Tudor also played a pivotal part in helping ECU stand among the country’s Top 20 units in redzone efficiency defense with a No. 19 rating. Bigger finished his sophomore campaign as the team’s third-leading defender with 77 stops and netted five batted passes – the highest total for any member of the front seven.
Bigger and Brandon Williams, another Wiley student who began his career as a walk-on, were considered the American Athletic Conference’s top linebacking duo in 2014 as the pair combined for 264 tackles. Bigger (league-leading 140, most by a Pirate defender since 2003) and Williams (124) each earned All-AAC honors to guide ECU to a No. 11 national rank in rushing defense (111.8 ypg) and a No. 13 FBS standing in third-down percentage defense (34.2).
Wiley’s unit enhanced his run-stopping reputation by keying a defense that surrendered less than 100 ground yards in seven of 13 games. Additionally, the Pirates never allowed a single rush to exceed 48 yards during ECU’s inaugural campaign in The American.
After capturing FCS national titles in 2005, 2006 and 2007, Appalachian State rolled to a combined 16-0 league mark in 2008 and 2009. The Mountaineers advanced to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division I playoffs in ‘08 before falling in the semifinals in ‘09 and concluding the season with a No. 3 national rank.
In addition to the 87 all-league selections, Wiley also mentored seven ASU defensive backs who earned All-America honors, including 2008 and 2009 consensus first-team pick Mark LeGree who netted a combined 17 interceptions during those respective campaigns. A total of eight Mountaineers were chosen Southern Conference Defensive Player-of-the-Year under Wiley’s leadership, while five were developed into NFL Draft picks.
Wiley, 53, opened his career at Texas in 1987 where he helped the Longhorns to a Bluebonnet Bowl appearance as a defensive backs coach.
Wiley was a three-year football letterman at East Texas State University and part of the Lions’ 1983 Lone Star Conference championship team before earning a bachelor’s degree in 1984.
A native of Texas City, Texas, Wiley is married to the former Kelly Ponder and the couple are the parents of three children - daughter Megan and sons Jax and Luke.