McNeill's Signing Day Press Conference



Feb. 1, 2012

Coach McNeill Press Conference

GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina University Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill addressed members of the media Wednesday about the 2012 recruiting class. The following are selected comments:

On National Signing Day
“It’s an exciting day for a lot of universities around the country. Having been around it for 32 years now, it’s still as exciting as it always has been.

“We’re excited about the entire 2012 class. We really like the quality of young men we got here. The character of your men is a high priority for us.

“We also like the athleticism of this group. The athletes within each position are exciting. We’re looking forward to getting them here with us and on board. It was a good day for us.”

On Going After The Best Players
“We went after the top players, not just in the state but around the country. That’s shown by the numbers of states represented in this class. We had players from seven states, plus Washington D.C., commit today. We hit North Carolina hard again. We were in a battle with some guys until the end. That’s going to happen.

“From day one we said we would go after the top player. We don’t care who is on that player or who is not on that player. We’ll go after the top player. When you are in battles for the top, there will be competition.

“We’re excited about this class. I’m looking forward to getting them here.”

On More Additions To Come
“We wanted to sign 20 in this class and we have 18 right now. We are not finished with this class as we’ll continue to fill it in the next few days.”

On The Hours Put Into Recruiting
“I’m really excited about it and looking forward to getting these guys back on campus. They’ve been here in the past to meet our players and staff, but I’m ready to get them back around our kids.

“In recruiting, there are a lot of man, mind and body hours that are put in to get ready for today. When you go across the states like we did there is a lot of travel. Our coaches have done a great job building relationships with coaches in the communities we’ve recruited.”

On Selling East Carolina
“When we brought the recruits on campus, it sold itself. From our top administrators on campus, to Coach Holland here with us and our athletic administrators, everybody was impressive. Our coaching staff, players, sports medicine staff with [Assistant Athletics Director/Medical Services (Head Athletic Trainer)] Mike Hanley and strength and conditioning staff with [Assistant Athletics Director/Strength and Conditioning] Jeff Connors all presented themselves very well. Coach Connors’ staff is one of the best in the country.

“It was very unique and great to bring our recruits around those groups of people. This day is an accumulation of a lot of hours, time and sacrifice by a lot of groups.

“Our city of Greenville, our university, our brand, our environment, our academics and our athletics all sold themselves. We helped to promote it, but in the end it sold itself.”

On Adding Depth And Meeting Needs
“We knew we had to develop starting ability and depth at the offensive line. That was a concentration of ours going into the recruiting season. In the secondary, we lost three starters in Derek Blacknall, Emanuel Davis and Bradley Jacobs. We felt we had to bring in, renew and fit within that area.

“Also on defense, our 3-4 is linebacker-type scheme. We felt we had to continue to restock and replenish that spot. We’ll continue to keep that 3-4 package as long as I’m here; I plan on being here a long time.

“We felt we had to revive our receiving corps as well. We lost Lance Lewis and were riddled by injuries at that position last season. Those guys we signed in Lance Ray, Jabril Solomon and Quataye Smyre bring speed and are great fits in our offense. They catch the ball well and are solid running after the grab. They can all return kicks and be involved in our special teams. We feel real good about that group.”

On Playing True Freshmen
“I think we showed our hand to playing right away last year. We’ll play the best player at that position. One thing we must do is provide competition at each position. There are some young players coming in who will definitely fit in and add to that competition. We won’t go into a year planning on giving a redshirt to a particular individual.

“One position that a redshirt usually happens to is the offensive line. The junior college needs we had to meet were within specific areas. We feel very good about the group we’re bringing in.

“Our defensive line was a spot where we had five guys redshirted as well as junior college transfers Leroy Vick and John Lattimore. Those two redshirts were a bonus for us. We felt solid along our defensive line. We met the needs for our other positions.”

On How Recruiting Has Changed Being The Head Coach Longer
“We were able to target individuals a little bit earlier. With [Director of Operations/Player Personnel] Brian Overton being involved now, we’ve begun targeting our 2013 and 2014 classes. After the first year, we were able to target better. Some of those guys we were in on until the last minute were because we were able to target them early.

“We had a chance to target them as early as sophomores. We recognized their ability and could follow up and send the Pirate letterhead into their homes as juniors. We eventually were able to call them and then reach the contact period. That was a major part of being here longer. We evaluated players at a young age and were able to identify them.”

On Being Close To Signing More Recruits
“I won’t back off of this statement. We’ll go after the best player. We felt like we had a great package and brand to present and sell. We know what we can provide with environment, academics and athletics. It came down to the day of a choice. We presented what we had and the young men, along with their families, chose what they wanted. We provide substance and validity here.

“I’m a product of this university so I’m a little bit different than some others who walk into homes. I know what East Carolina has done and can do. I felt good about those guys we were battling it out for. I think their best choice was East Carolina. I have no doubt about that. I hope we see them pretty soon.”

On Talent Versus Needs
“I think you have to go into it looking to fit your needs. Within those needs, you have to find guys with talent. The next breakdown is if the player has the proper character we require here. It doesn’t matter about need or talent if, once we expose him our players, coaches and university, we find out he’s the wrong fit. Need and talent are wiped off at that point. I had to do that a couple times during the season, as you do every year.

“When you like a guy on film and he fits a need, you want to meet him and do your research. When our coaches are able to go out into the school and community, we learn a lot. The one rule I hate is that I can only get out to see a recruit one time. As an assistant, I was able to get out and meet a kid six times. Within those six times, we research and meet everybody from the coach, to the secretary, to the cafeteria workers and to the other students in the hallway. We want to meet with needs and talent, but also with a fit character wise.”

On Comparing This Class With Others
“I like this class. I know and am confident we fit our offensive line need. After the season and evaluating where we were, we had to meet that. With losing the three secondary guys, and seeing the progress the defense made last season, the secondary has to be a strong unit.

“Lucas Thompson coming aboard was a great addition. He was one of those guys who came up and enjoyed the experience and process here at East Carolina. The other signees in the secondary are full of talent and are really guys who can change the game.

“The linebacker position, we felt we had to restock that. On the offense, because of our thought process, we have to refill each year at receiver. On defense, it’s the linebacker spot.

“I feel great about this class.”

On Reece Speight
“Reece was the first one we got across the fax machine this morning. He sent it twice just to make sure we had it. I like Reece. He’s from right down the road and is going to be a special player here. I think our fans will just adore and love him. He’s also a really, really good football player.”

On Selling East Carolina
“One of the things I’ve found is that each home and each year is different. The values within each home are different. One of the things you have to evaluate pretty quickly is what the home values. We go into each home trying to fit its needs.

“We first want to find out what that player’s needs are. Once we find those academic, athletic, social and career goals, we generally find our brand fits those needs. We start with our environment, both on the field and off. We want to bring in here a group of men who are looking for success, challenges and hard work. The academic disciplines will be there for them. As a product of East Carolina, I’m able to sell what East Carolina has done for me, not just as a coach, but also academically.

“Athletically, our venue here is second to none. We play a great schedule year in and year out. It’s a place where you’ll be challenged on the field and off. The other thing I throw out to them is our sports medicine staff, one of our strong suits here. Of course with Coach Connors in our strength staff, you’ll find a guy who is going to prepare you to be successful right now and at the next level. The last thing I sell is community service. We push community service here.

“The decision is usually made after that. I’m selling substance, validity and what we have as a program. Some families are looking for other things, whether it’s glitz, glamour or something else. You’ll have to ask those guys why they chose not to come here. Those guys who did come here, they made the best choice.”

On Keeping This Signing Class Intact
“I feel great about the group. We were in a battle with some other guys and schools, but when you go after those types of players, you’ll have those battles. You could lose some guys to another school, but there will be a point when we get our share.

“We’ve already begun our 2013 class and our 2014 class. We’ve identified players within those classes. We’re looking at needs and talents and looking forward to that next crop.”

On The Junior College Transfers
“They met specific needs that we have. We want to win right now, as well as in the future. These guys fit in. Most of them have an ability to redshirt if we need them to. Those guys fit depth in the secondary and along the offensive line. That’s why we went after them.”

On Changes To Recruiting
“The biggest change is the social media - from the internet, to radio, to Facebook, to Twitter. When I first began recruiting, coaches could go see a young man for an entire week. I can remember Coach Dye and his staff seeing me every day for a period of time. When I started, we could literally outwork people for recruits. The rules now state that a head coach can see a recruit one time out of the six evaluations.

“Along with the media exposure a young man can get, the workload on coaches has been limited. I liked the fact that you could outwork some guys.

“Meeting Coach Dye sold me on East Carolina. Seeing the university and Greenville the first time was great. The university has grown and changed since then, but atmosphere of our student interaction has not changed at all.”

On The Anticipation Of The Day
“There are usually about six or seven adult eyes watching a fax machine. That’s always a part of it. Sometimes I tend to walk away. Today I went on my walk for an hour to get away. Sometimes it goes down to the wire. I love it, though.

“I came in the first year and had to finish off that class. That group was pretty much established. I enjoy those young men very much. After I accepted the job, I had about a week to get into all the homes and visit. We sealed the deal on that first group. Then we were able to start researching and identifying guys. This class was a lot of body hours in airports and cars.”