McNeill Adds Four To ECU Football Staff

UABSPORTS.COM East Carolina Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill announced Tuesday the hiring of four more members to his staff.
East Carolina Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill announced Tuesday the hiring of four more members to his staff.

Feb. 2, 2010

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GREENVILLE, N.C. - First-year East Carolina Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill continued to add to his staff with the hiring announcement of Brandon Jones, Clay McGuire, Dennis Simmons and Marc Yellock Tuesday.

McNeill has appointed Jones as the Pirates' offensive line coach, McGuire as running backs coach and Simmons as outside receivers coach, while Yellock will oversee the defensive tackles.

Jones, a former All-Big 12 Conference performer and Texas Tech offensive staff assistant, most recently served as Sam Houston (Texas) State's offensive line coach during the 2009 season - a position he accepted last summer.

"As dynamic as Brandon is with his on-the-field responsibilities, his off-the-field leadership might surpass that," McNeill said. "His long involvement with our offense as a special player has given him a unique perspective and the knowledge of what's needed for us to be successful."

During his two-year tenure on the Red Raider staff as an offensive assistant, Texas Tech rolled up records of 9-4 and 11-2 to earn invitations to the Gator Bowl (2007) and Cotton Bowl (2008), respectively. The '07 Red Raiders earned a final No. 18 national ranking while the '08 squad completed the season standing No. 12 in the final AP poll.

Jones worked with weekly opponent's film breakdown and the defensive scout team during his coaching stay at Texas Tech, while also assisting with recruiting and the program's summer camp activities.

As a player for the Red Raiders, Jones started 22 games at center and earned honorable mention all-conference honors as a junior. He was a Rimington Award candidate as the nation's top center as a senior and earned the E. J. Holub Double Tough Award while being selected as the team's most improved player. Jones closed out his career by earning an invitation to play in the Texas vs. the Nation College All-Star Game where he was a starting team captain.

Jones was a first-team all-state choice on both sides of the ball at McNary High School in Keizer, Ore., helping lead the Celtics to the state title as a senior.

Jones, 26, was born in Wichita, Kan., grew up in Texas prior to moving to Oregon. He earned his bachelor's degree in communication studies from Texas Tech in 2006.

McGuire, who enjoyed a total of nine bowl appearances as a player and staff member at Texas Tech, recently completed his second year as a Red Raider coach. The 2009 campaign however, marked his first heading the running backs corps - a position he lettered in for four years.

His move to the backfield followed service as special teams coordinator in 2008, an offensive graduate assistant in 2007 and a video intern in 2006.

"Clay has played and coached in this offense, and that experience alone is invaluable," McNeill said. "He's one of the most intelligent coaches and tireless recruiters I've been around who understands all the intangibles that can make this offense and program successful."

McGuire's three primary running backs, which included two freshmen, all averaged over 5.0 yards a carry in 2009. Junior Baron Batch was Texas Tech's offensive MVP after racking up a team-high 1,279 all-purpose yards - 884 on the ground, 395 receiving - and 15 touchdowns. His 101-yard, two TD rushing performance in the Valero Alamo Bowl marked his fourth century-mark effort of the season. He, along with rookies Eric Stephens (5.2 rypg) and Harrison Jeffers (6.2), accounted for 20 of the Red Raiders' 24 rushing scores.

McGuire assumed the special teams coordinator role early in 2007 on an interim basis, after McNeill moved over to the defensive coordinator position before the fifth game.

He experienced an interesting first season as, midway through, Matt Williams joined the kicking unit after winning an in-game promotion during the Massachusetts game. Williams perfectly hit a 30-yard field goal to win a year's free rent at a local apartment complex, but opted to join the Red Raiders when former head coach Mike Leach summoned the Weatherford, Texas native after the kick and invited him to join the team.

Williams proved to be one of the bright spots in McGuire's first season, connecting on all 33 of his PAT attempts. He joined newcomer Donnie Carona as the team's two primary kickers.

In an offense that doesn't provide many punting opportunities, Jonathan LaCour made the most of each kick, dropping 11 of 25 inside the 20. The punting unit, behind LaCour's strong leg, allowed only 14 returns all season.

Eric Morris took over punt return duties and averaged 10.6 yards per attempt, while also scoring Tech's first TD on a punt return since the 2004 season. Morris recorded the fifth-longest run-back in school history when he eluded defenders on an 86-yard scoring return at Nevada.

The special teams units responded to McGuire immediately when he took over in 2007 as the punt team thwarted any attempt at return opportunities for the opposition. Tech opponents averaged a mere 6.7 yards per return and returned only 18 of 30 punts. The kickoff coverage unit was second in the Big 12 and Carona was among the top five nationally in touchbacks.

Danny Amendola, splitting punt return duties with Morris, had his best season fielding punts in 2007. The former Red Raider averaged 15.9 yards on 14 returns, including a 65-yard effort, which was the long of the season for Tech. Morris also performed well, averaging 9.2 yards, and helping lead Tech to an 11.6-yard average as a team.

McGuire appeared in 45 games at the H-Back position for the Red Raiders during the course of four seasons from 2000 to 2004. A big, physical player, he was noted for his effectiveness as a blocker in Tech's offense, and also factored into the passing game, catching 32 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns during his career.

He spent the 2006 season as an intern in the football program's video department, helping break down game and practice film for the coaching staff. As the offensive graduate assistant, his responsibilities included aligning and preparing each week's defensive scout team, working with both the offensive linemen and skill players, and helping the assistant coaches with weekly game plans.

McGuire earned a bachelor's degree in history from Texas Tech in 2004 before following with a master's in secondary education in 2007.

McGuire, 27, is a native of Crane, Texas, where he lettered in both baseball and football at Crane High School. He and his wife, Jeri, are the parents of a daughter - Jorja.

Another long-time and former key member of the Texas Tech staff, Simmons joins the ECU program after completing his 10th year with the Red Raiders and his second on the coaching staff after being appointed to guide the wide receivers prior to the 2008 campaign.

His on-the-field position followed a two-year stint as head coach Mike Leach's chief of staff from 2005 to 2007.

"Our players will find out very quickly what Dennis' sense of awareness is," McNeill said. "In addition to being a tenacious recruiter, he brings much experience to, not only the offensive side of the ball, but the program as a whole - on the field, off the field and especially in the classroom."

After accepting the Texas Tech coaching assignment, Simmons stepped into a vital role on the offensive side and inherited the nation's leading receiver and Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree.

Crabtree repeated as Biletnikoff winner under Simmons' watch and was a consensus All-America choice for the second-straight season. Crabtree, only a redshirt sophomore in 2008, was drafted No. 10 overall in the 2009 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers.

Simmons' '08 group, led by Crabtree's 97 receptions, 1,165 yards and 19 touchdowns, accounted for 31 of the team's 47 receiving touchdowns. The 31 scores by the wide receivers alone were more than 107 Division I teams' total receiving touchdowns a year earlier.

In 2009, he, along with inside receivers coach Lincoln Riley, transformed walk-on Alex Torres into a Freshman All-America selection after a team-leading 67-catch, 806-yard, six-touchdown performance.

A former three-year starter at Brigham Young University, Simmons initially arrived at Texas Tech as the assistant athletics director/quality control for the football program.

Simmons' previous responsibilities included scheduling, coordinating recruiting visits and spearheading the Texas Tech Football Camps. He also handled player personnel issues and ran the Texas Tech Football Outreach Program and community service initiatives. Simmons remained as the staff huddle leader for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter and served as the academic liaison after returning to the field.

Additionally, Simmons was involved on campus with President's Select, the Saddle Tramps, Goin' Band from Raiderland and spirit squads when it pertained to recruiting, and also served on the Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund Board.

Simmons came to Texas Tech from Cornell University, where he coached the running backs and was assistant athletics director and chief of staff. Prior to Cornell, he served as an assistant coach at his alma mater, BYU, in 1997, working with the offensive line and special teams.

Simmons graduated from BYU in December 1996 with a bachelor of arts degree in broadcast communications. Twice named to the dean's list, Simmons earned four letters and was a three-year starter at outside linebacker. He helped the Cougars win four-straight Western Athletic Conference titles and was a part of four bowl games, including the Cotton Bowl, Copper Bowl, Holiday Bowl and Aloha Bowl.

A native of Memphis, Tenn., Simmons earned his master's degree in educational leadership in August 1999 from BYU. He served as an NFL Minority Fellowship intern with the Buffalo Bills during the summer of 1999.

Simmons, 36, and his wife, Kristy, are the parents of a girl, Kendyll, born July 14, 2009.

Yellock, a four-year Pirate letterman who recently helped guide Elon to a top 10 national ranking in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) final polls for the first time in school history, will return to his alma mater after a four-year absence.

Before accepting the position as Elon's defensive line coach in January, 2006, Yellock served two seasons as a defensive staff assistant under coaches John Thompson and Skip Holtz at ECU in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

"As a player and coach here, Marc understands the history and passion that is the foundation of Pirate Football," McNeill said. "He did a great job at Elon, perhaps receiving the greatest compliment from (former Appalachian State) Coach (John) Wiley who talked about how hard his kids play, how aggressive they are and what great technique they used."

Yellock's efforts at Elon played a key role in the Phoenix' rise to new heights in their 11-year Division I history, culminating with No. 9 standing in The Sports Network poll after a 9-3 campaign in 2009 that included an at-large selection into the FCS playoffs - also a first in program history.

Two of Yellock's linemen - Andre Campbell and Eric Ludwig - earned First-Team All-Southern Conference accolades last fall. Campbell finished tied for 17th in the nation in tackles for loss and 22nd in sacks, while the duo was an intergral factor for an Elon unit that stood 11th nationally in total defense and 15th against the rush.

Yellock gained additional experience during the summer of 2009, completing an internship with the New Orleans Saints where he worked with the organization's defensive line and special teams unit.

During his four-year playing career at East Carolina which began in 1997 under Steve Logan, Yellock experienced action in 26 games and made 18 starts and was part of Pirate teams that advanced to a pair of bowl games in 1999 (Mobile Bowl) and 2000 (

His collegiate career followed four letterwinning campaigns as a defensive end at Person County High School in Roxboro, N.C., between 1992 and 1995.

After earning a bachelor's degree in chemistry from ECU in 2000, Yellock worked two years at Metric, Inc. of Greenville, serving as a lab analyst for one year and as an analytical chemist for one year before returning to football as a linebackers coach at J.H. Rose High School in 2002. He followed his one-year prep stint by joining the Pirate staff as a video intern in 2003 before being elevated to a staff assistant's position a year later

Yellock, 31, is married to the former LaTonya McIver of Leasburg, N.C. The couple has twins - a boy, Hunter, and a girl, Taylor.

The four join previously announced additions Lincoln Riley (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), Brian Mitchell (defensive coordinator/defensive backs) and John Wiley (associate head coach/linebackers) on the Pirates' staff along with inside receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick, who was retained by McNeill.

McNeill indicated his initial staff will be complete with one additional hire, which will be determined after National Signing Day.