Third-year head coach Ruffin McNeill
Sept. 3, 2012
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Third-year East Carolina University Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill addressed members of the media prior to this week's game against South Carolina. The following are selected comments:
"It was a very good team win for us on Saturday. We knew Appalachian State would not be intimidated by the environment and they came in and played well. I was proud of our team."
"I thought that they did well in many areas, but especially showing poise on the sideline throughout the game. The team kept their composure even in the beginning of the game when things were not going as smoothly as we had hoped. I really respected that from this team. I thought that we did well in all four sides of the football team."
"Our special teams did a great job of changing fielding position on a punt return by Justin Hardy and the kickoff touchdown from Lance Ray. Both of those plays gave us momentum and field position. Defensively the team was able to force three turnovers and Chip Thompson's fumble touchdown return tied the game. I thought our offense started off a little slow, but held tight and ended up controlling the ball at the end of the game. The fourth side of the football team is the sidelines. The group of players on the sidelines were enthusiastic and supportive of each other."
"It is always good to get that first home win especially with the long stretch of road games we are playing over the next few weeks. I was also pleased that we played smart football and were only penalized twice. We have to continue to play smart football. Turnovers are an element of the game you never want. The first interception for Appalachian State came off a tipped ball and the lost fumble is just something that can't happen. We will keep working on that and emphasize ball security."
"We will find out about the status of Michael Brooks later on Monday. He is doubtful right now, but we are hoping that the doctors can clear him when they look at the MRI this afternoon."
"Once again South Carolina is a very good football team. They have Southeastern Conference talent on all three sides of the ball. Coach Spurrier has done an outstanding job. The team won 11 games last year and beat Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. Lorenzo Ward took over as the defensive coordinator this season with Ellis Johnson getting the head coaching position at Southern Miss in the off-season. Lorenzo has been around for a while and will do a great job with that defense. Offensively, running back Marcus Lattimore has returned from the injury that ended his season last year and looks fully healthy. He is a Heisman Trophy candidate and he will be one of the better backs in the country this season. Connor Shaw is a dual-threat quarterback. He got banged up a little bit last week, but he will be back in time for the game this week. South Carolina returns three starters on the offensive line including a Rimington Trophy candidate (most outstanding center at FBS level) in T.J. Johnson. The top receiver for South Carolina is Ace Sanders. Sanders is a speed receiver that will also return kicks. Coach Spurrier has been able to adapt to the league he is in and has adjusted his offense to his personnel. He runs the ball more frequently than he did when he was coaching at Florida. On defense, South Carolina has two of the top defensive ends in the country in Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor. Both of them have first round draft choice type of ability and cover a lot of ground. Kelcy Quarles is their top interior defensive lineman and he led them in tackles for loss in the game against Vanderbilt last week. South Carolina has an experienced linebacker group led by Shaq Wilson. Wilson stays in on all running and passing defensive packages. D.J. Swearinger is the leader in the secondary."
Keys to His Team This Week
"The key for this second game for us is making sure that we improve fundamentally. That is an area that we have focused on since I got into coaching and that is the number one element that needs to be worked on when a team transitions from week one to week two. We need to make sure that we keep executing better on all three sides on the ball and play 11-man football for consistent stretches. That is a big goal for us as a staff and for our team. We also need to keep applying good football IQ that has been addressed all off-season and throughout camp."
This Week of Practice
"We know that we need to have a great week of practice in preparation for the game against South Carolina. We were forced to make some adjusts to our normal game week schedule because of the Labor Day holiday. We will practice today and the NCAA day off from practice will be Tuesday for this week. We will continue with our normal schedule starting with Wednesday's practice."
Offensive Line's Play
"The group did some very positive things against Appalachian State on Saturday. South Carolina will provide and present a whole new test for them and the rest of the team. Both of the offensive line and our defensive line will be challenged and I expect those guys to rise to the expectations that we have for them. The fundamental improvement that I talked about will start with the offensive line."
Benefit of Running the 3-4 Defense
"It gives us flexibility and the ability to adjust to offensive changes. We can also have better gap integrity running this system."
Assessment of Rio Johnson's Play
"Rio was poised on the sideline. He never blinked and stayed confident. Rio found his rhythm in the second half. He checked us into the correct play the highest number of times I have seen from a first-game starter at quarterback and that goes back to the quarterbacks from my time at Texas Tech. Rio has room to improve, but I thought he did a good job of managing the football team. He will keep getting better. He looked sharp at practice last night too."
John Lattimore's Play Against Appalachian State
"John missed all of last year with an injury. I thought he played strong at the point of contact against Appalachian State. He had very few mental errors. For it being his first start he was very calm and under control. John will continue to get better the more game reps he gets throughout the season. We were able to rotate all our defensive linemen quite a bit in the first game to keep them all fresh and that helped all of them out."
The Effect the Heat Had On The Team On Saturday
"I was very proud of our conditioning. We had a couple guys have some cramp issues, but not many. I felt bad to hear that some of our fans were having some problems with the heat. I hope they are doing okay. It will be another hot game this week in Columbia. Our team responded well to all the conditioning of Coach Jeff Connors and we were playing as fast in the fourth quarter as we were in the first against Appalachian State. I was very happy about that."
Breakdown of the Offense Against Appalachian State
"We had great balance with 35 runs and 43 passes. The area we are still focusing on is finding the roles that each one of our running backs fits into. The staff continues to work on that and it will be an area that is molded throughout the year. I feel good about all our running backs and the way they are playing. For me it has never been about carries or catches at the running back and wide receiver position. It is more about touches. We want each position to have a certain number of touches per game. We want to keep trying to distribute those reps so the defense will not be able to focus on any one player."
Play of Terrell Stanley Against Appalachian State
"Terrell is a young player that has great hands and strength. He was a playmaker coming out of high school. He did a good job of holding his gap and trusting his technique against Appalachian State. A lot of young players have a tendency of trying to do too much at times. Just like John Lattimore, I think Terrell will get better with the more game reps that he gets through the season."