Third-year head coach Ruffin McNeill
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 Southern Miss. The following are selected comments:
"Right after the game on Saturday I thought that we had faced a pretty good football team in South Carolina and after watching the film my initially thoughts were confirmed. That was a good football that we played and they did a good job, but also after watching the film I also feel like we have a chance to have a good football team as well. We did some good things and we did some things not as well. As a competitor you want to win every game, but after a game like we had on Saturday sometimes you just need to look at the film and evaluate what you did do correctly."
Bright Spots From South Carolina Game
"The bright spots that we can take from the game are that our kids played extremely hard through the game. Even when facing adversity in a hostile environment the team stayed together and kept fighting until the last snap. As a coach that is an element that can be built upon. Another positive was our lack of penalties with only one in the game. It might not seem like much, but that tells me that we are playing smart football. I thought the offensive line pass protected very well. To play against two guys that will be picked early in the NFL Draft and not give up a sack to them was a positive. Trent Tignor again did a good job punting and changing field position. Warren Harvey did a good job on his kickoffs. He hooked the field goal earlier in the game, but he came back and made his second attempt. I thought it was important to get him some confidence."
Areas That Need To Be Improved
"An area that we need to improve on is taking care of the ball and not turning it over. When playing any team the margin for error is small and when you turn the ball over five times against a ranked team like South Carolina the margin is even smaller. The decision making by the quarterbacks and taking care of the ball is something that needs to be corrected. As a staff we began to address this issue last night with the team. On defense we gave up too many long pass plays. Great pass rush equals great pass coverage and great pass coverage equals great pass rush. That hasn't changed since the start of the game of football, but at the same time there comes a time in the game when a play needs to be made. We had some third-down chances where we just didn't get their quarterback on the ground. The last thing that I noticed is playing consistent plays of 11-man football. We need to get away from having plays where we play eight-man football here or six-man football there."
"Justin Dixon and Leonard Paulk are out for this week. Michael Brooks is doubtful. Jacobi Jenkins and Kristopher Sykes are both questionable. We have a lot of other players that are banged up from the game and we will see how those guys recover today after receiving a few treatments from our training staff."
Lesson from the South Carolina game
"Not to let one game beat us twice. We will work on the areas that need to be corrected and build on the areas that we did right before our next game against Southern Miss."
"Southern Miss is the defending Conference USA Champions and they are still a very talented team. They lost some guys from both sides of the ball, but they are still a typical tough and fast Southern Miss football team. Ellis Johnson is doing a great job in his first year of being the head coach. They had a tough game to start the season playing at Nebraska, but had an open week this last weekend to heal up and prepare for us. Offensively, Southern Miss returns their offensive line and they are a group that is experienced and didn't panic under the pressure of facing Nebraska on the road to start the season. The running back is Desmond Johnson. They have a few other running backs that will get snaps in Jalen Richards and Jeremy Hester. Anthony Alford has been named the starting quarterback for this weekend. He is a dual-threat quarterback. He led the team in rushing against Nebraska so we need to find a way to surround him and limit what he does on the ground. The other quarterback that we may see in this game is Chris Campbell. Campbell started against Nebraska and looked poised and did a good job of moving the football team. Tracy Lampley is a difference maker on the football team as wide receiver and a returner on special teams. He had a 100-yard return for a touchdown against Nebraska. Jamie Collins is the player that hurt us on defense last year. He plays the bandit or outside linebacker position. Deron Wilson is another key returner on the defense as a cornerback. I thought the defense had strong inside players last year in Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Khyri Thornton, and Khalid Wilson and they are all back this year."
Slowing Down Tracy Lampley
"First thing we need to have great ball placement by punter Trent Tignor and kicker Warren Harvey. The second are is to stay disciplined in our lanes and keep him bottled up. Southern Miss blocks well, but Lampley is a talented player that is very dangerous in the open field."
New Starters This Week
"Shane Carden is going to start this week at quarterback with Rio Johnson serving as the backup. Danny Webster is going to move up and start at the `H' inside receiver position. Lee Pegues will move back to defensive end because of the injury to Justin Dixon. Joshua Hawkins and Rocco Scarfone could each see additional playing time or potentially start at cornerback this week with the injuries to Jacobi Jenkins and Kristopher Sykes. We expected Damon Magazu to be able to play this week at free safety. Lamar Ivey played well at strong safety. Chip Thompson had some tough moments against South Carolina, but did well when settled down later in the game. Terry Williams rejoins the team and could see playing time at nose tackle."
"All season long when I have referred to our quarterbacks I have always noted that I consider Shane a starter as well and that I would not hesitate in rotating or switching quarterbacks if it was in the best interest of the team. We were going to put Shane in for Rio at the end of the half, but we waited and just put him in to start the third quarter. He had a tough throw that first series that was intercepted, but after that he came back and did a good job. We have a lot of confidence in all of our quarterbacks and that includes Brad Wornick as well. Rio did a good job the last few weeks, but Shane will be given the opportunity to be the starter this week. "
Difference of Offense With Shane Carden as Quarterback
"Shane is a little better runner. He understands the offense just as well as Rio. I think the game started to slow down for him a little toward the end of his reps against South Carolina. The South Carolina game was really his first game of playing quarterback for us as he mostly just ran the football against Appalachian State and entered in a game last season as a wide receiver. He made some throws and decisions that we liked toward the end of the game against South Carolina and will be given his opportunity to start against Southern Miss."
Concern About Depth Along the Defensive Line
"Right now I am okay with our depth. We all felt like Terrell Stanley was a guy that could come on for us at nose tackle and he made some plays against Appalachian State. He gives us strength in the center of the defense. We have confidence in Terrell and think that he will keep getting better each game. Lee Pegues played well against South Carolina at nose. He made a lot of hits and plays. Our defensive line played well against the run against South Carolina to limit one of the best running backs in the country, Marcus Lattimore, to 40 yards."
On the Running Game and Keeping Offensive Balance
"We want to run the football and if we see five at the line of scrimmage we will run the ball. If the defense has six players in the box we will pass it. Everyone knows that. That is not a hidden gem. South Carolina did a good job of playing six in the box and manning us up in the secondary. We are a pretty balanced football team and I would like to see that continue. We need to keep trying to get all of our players the ball and get increased touches for running backs Hunter Furr and Vintavious Cooper."
Mood of Team On Sunday Night
"Just like this university we have a tough group. The team was a little disappointed with the way they played against South Carolina because they are competitors. Whenever you lose a game it should hurt, but we will bounce back. I thought was had a good day of practice on Sunday."
The play of Justin Hardy against South Carolina
"Justin is a very good player. He injured his shoulder against Appalachian so we really limited his use to only on offense against South Carolina. Justin is a player that we need to keep getting the ball to. He is one of those guys that can make plays. I also thought he did a good job of blocking."