2011 Media Day Transcript
Aug. 6, 2011
GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina University Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill addressed members of the media Saturday at the Pirates' annual Media Day, which was conducted in Harvey Hall of the Murphy Center. ECU's afternoon practice was postponed due to inclement weather, including lightning in the area.
The following is a transcript of McNeill's entire press conference.
"We're excited to be here in our second year as a staff. To keep a staff intact, not just in coaching but in all circles, is a big plus. It allowed us to have a smooth transition during the offseason and summer. We have projects assigned to each group and having continuity made those simple to complete.
"Our athletic director Terry Holland and senior associate athletic director Nick Floyd are both here today and they have been essential to what we're trying to do here. They brought me on board first and allowed me to bring my staff here.
"We're very excited to be here in our second year. It's really neat."
On Last Season
"I had to go from coaching a position to running a team. I was very blessed to have a group of guys on my staff who were able to go out and do their jobs. As my dad used to say, they knew how to load the wagon.
"We were able to do some things that were overlooked at times. We qualified for a postseason bowl. There are a lot of teams that would like to go to a bowl but cannot. East Carolina, our university and our program was able to. I don't take those games lightly. In fact, I appreciate them very much. I've been in coaching for 31 years and 26 at the collegiate level. To be able to go to a bowl was a big accomplishment.
"Are we satisfied with that? No. We came here to win championships. That's the first thing I told Coach Holland and his group. We came here to win championships.
"Another great thing about last year was that we were in the divisional championship race up until the last game. I was pleased with that fact. We wanted to win that football game against SMU and fought well. Being in title contention until that last contest showed a lot of moxie by our football team and staff.
"To be one of two first-year staffs in the country to win five or more conference games, along with Florida State which won six, was a third positive from a year ago."
"We also had one of the biggest recruiting coups during in the offseason by being able to bring Jeff Connors back to East Carolina."
On His Personal Health
"First, I have to say thank you to my staff for what it did while all that was going on. It was a personal decision and it took some time to make it. One of things that helped me make the choice was being in a place like Greenville and at East Carolina with its medical facilities. Those factors made the decision a lot easier.
"But I had to make that personal choice. I didn't rely on Erlene for the initial decision. Of course she and my family have been involved, but it had to start with me.
"It also had to do with me professionally. I knew how I wanted to coach and what I wanted to bring to the table. I knew how I wanted to do this job. I knew my health was going to be vital.
"I'm six months out from bariatric surgery and three months out from the hip replacement surgery. I'm still in rehab and recovery mode from both of those things. I feel great. I'm able to get my walk and workout in every day.
"I'm also not going to run out in front of the team this season. With my luck, one of the kids will get excited, run out, knock me over and the hip would pop out of socket again. I'd be face down on the grass in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium with all your cameras on me for 40 minutes. I'll stick to walking for safety purposes."
On Offseason Evaluations
"I knew Coach Connors would come in and bring a different element to our program. He has done that in a short amount of time.
"We established in the spring what we as a staff would bring to the table each day. One area was being a smart football team, one that doesn't beat itself. The group must also understand the game in specific situations. Those are areas in which we can become better. Being a smart football team has been a priority since the spring. Coach Connors has also emphasized that during his workouts.
"The other thing we talked about in our evaluations was turnover ratio. We want to be great at taking the ball away and giving ourselves extra possessions. On offense, we want to take care of the ball and not make our defense work extra possessions. Special teams are a combination of both.
"We felt like we needed to make two things happen during the offseason: have great physical improvement and upgrade our talent level. We had to get guys in here we knew could take us to another level. We're getting those guys now. There is no magic dust to make those things happen, but we've done it. We've upgraded our talent level on all three sides of the ball in all positions."
On The Defensive Transition To A 3-4
"In the spring we made some schematic changes going to a 3-4 from a 4-3. The reason for that was that it fits the personnel we have here on campus and the type we're able to recruit. In this league, which will be one of the most competitive in college football this year, the scheme fits the offensive styles.
"The coaches and talent we have in this league are very impressive. We have an outstanding group of quarterbacks in Conference USA, including the one right here in Greenville in Dominique Davis. It reminds me of the year in the Big 12, when Graham Harrell, Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy where there.
"The defense we now have is flexible and can form into whatever we need in a given situation. The schematic and fundamental installations went well in the spring. I was anxious to see the improvement from spring to right now. Yesterday, the kids had great carryover from the spring. I'm looking forward to the improvement we display today and throughout camp.
"We have a lot of work ahead of us. Our nonconference and conference schedules will test us. Right now we are not ready to play a game as a team on any side of the ball. The work and preparation we need right now will come in handy down the road."
On Offensive Improvements
"When you upgrade the talent levels on offense and defense, your special teams get better. I emphasize special teams as much as anybody around. That's a very important part of our football team."
On Goals For Fall Camp
"As always, establishing the personality of this football team will be vital. In this game, your personality is reformed and starts new with each team. During the summer workouts with Coach Connors and now into fall camp, the personality is still being determined and established. That's what we'll also be focused on.
"We're excited about getting into the season part, but not quite yet. We have a lot of preparation left to do.
"We've talked a lot to the team about the process. We have to get the group to understand the process of mental and physical preparation. They have to understand the mental part of extra film study. It started this summer, but will continue through fall camp.
"Physically it's about the walkthroughs, practices, lifting and conditioning. They have to appreciate the process. The end of that leads to the games and season, but understanding the process is most important right now. That'll be a big emphasis for us.
"I'm looking forward to seeing how the young people we've signed will come in, blend in and add to the talent level. We saw some things yesterday, but we're still in shorts and helmets. You really can't tell anything until you put the full pads on, but I'm looking to see how those guys contribute. I'm anxious to see how our older guys who have been around the program have evolved and progressed from spring to now."
On Developing Young Men
"I plan on being here for a long time. I will make sure there are no egos or entitlement. I will make sure everybody understands the value of teamwork. It's all about teamwork. We started teaching that on August 4th and will continue to teach that throughout. I'm excited to see how our kids accept that and buy into that. Everybody has to be all in and I think we have a group that is."
On When The Decision Was Made To Switch To A 3-4 Defense
"The transition for us as coaches was not a major one. After the season, Brian, John, Marc, Duane and myself contemplated it. Brian and I met and decided to go with it. When you look at the personnel, you want something that fits them. The key positions in any defensive alignment are the linemen.
"The decision was made right after the season. The guys did a great job of diving into the package as a staff. There was more meeting time than you can imagine or document.
"I've mentioned these two words a lot - schematics and fundamentals. I've been on defense all my life. Schematically it was great install in the spring. Our guys did fantastic in the spring. The young men picked up the scheme very well. The second part of it is fundamental installation. There are some fundamental changes for positions, mainly up front for the defensive linemen and linebacking corps. Once we made the decision, the guys jumped into it full go. We visited friends of ours and friends of the program to get some insight. Then, of course, we relied on our own knowledge and expertise.
"This is a life move. We'll do this the whole time we're here. As long as I'm here, we're a 3-4 defensive team."
On Why The 4-3 Was Used Last Year
"We thought we had four defensive linemen and maybe six to eight for depth. We then lost some guys to injury. I've been an even-man line and odd-man line guy before. We went to some odd-man line looks last year and they were very effective."
On The Defensive Linemen Buying Into A 3-4 Scheme
"I'm confident being able to say our defensive linemen will do it well. Coach Yellock has those defensive linemen working well. He played in a 3-4 scheme during his time here. It's about teamwork and what's best for East Carolina. They'll get it."
On The Potential For Increased Blitzes
On Junior College Transfers
"Chris Baker, another junior college transfer, has been here since the first semester of summer school and is improving and learning how to do things at the Division I level. He'll be a great contributor for us on defense and special teams."
On Forming His Coaching Staff
"With our defensive staff, it was not put together by a fly-by-night thought. I knew what I wanted in those rooms from our coordinators Brian, Lincoln and Clay. I also understood what they brought to the table off the field. It takes time. You have to be patient.
"I'm not going to microwave this program. I could try and sign 25-30 junior college transfers, but I'm not going to do that. I'm going to build it from the ground up with a solid foundation, making sure we get the right type of guys on the bus. Our staff was put together with the main fact of continuity in mind. Last year our offensive guys supported our defensive guys and vice versa. That's what it's all about."
On His Family Setting And Teaching Approach
"I'll react better in a family setting and it all starts up top with Coach Holland and Nick Floyd. My one request was to make sure we did things as a team and family.
"It's important to me the players understand I love them, and love the team and university more. That doesn't mean I don't love them or won't discipline them. I look at them as my sons and my chance to develop champions.
"We want to win championships here. Not just win championships on the field, but part of my job is to build champions off the field. I believe that's one of my duties as a coach. Anybody who deals with athletics should have that be a major part of their concern. It is a primary focus of mine.
"The teaching concept comes from a lot of things. One is that I was raised in a teaching home. I'm a teacher with a teaching degree. I have a master's degree in counseling.
"One thing about the personal decisions I made is that they have helped clear my mind. Last year it was excruciating pain. It was unreal. I'm not a medicine guy and I really didn't want to take anything, so I tried to suck it up. But that pain was unbearable. Since all the surgeries, I've had a clear mind.
"When evaluating in the offseason, I don't start with the coaches, I start with myself. I needed to get better in some aspects. I could have taught better. Coaching and teaching and teaching and coaching are one to me.
"I've asked some things of the team like having no ego or entitlement, functioning as one team, playing with great effort, having a strong mindset, competing daily and making sure the fourth quarter is ours. We can talk about all those things, but everybody learns differently. Being a coach and teacher, there are a lot of different ways we need to use to reach the kids. Some players, like a Matt Milner, you can tell them something one time and they have it. Some have to be taught something, shown it on film and physically walked through it to learn it. It's the same thing with me trying to teach concepts and philosophies.
"In evaluating myself in the offseason, I felt I could do a better job teaching. I went back to that background and got some help from the younger coaches on different methods like PowerPoint. I think it has been really beneficial. I've promised to do my part and do everything I can to improve and help the team be successful. I want to make champions in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, but off the field once they leave us. I want them to be great husbands, men and fathers."