McNeill's Weekly Press Conference
Sept. 13, 2010
GREENVILLE, N.C. - First-year East Carolina University Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill addressed members of the media prior to this week's game against Virginia Tech. The following are selected comments:
On The Memphis Game
“I knew the players were getting a lot of compliments from the students and their families. I was worried about the hangover going into the Memphis game. I knew Memphis would be ready to fight after its loss to Mississippi State. I knew [head coach] Larry Porter would have them ready to play. I was really worried about our team and how it would react.
“We had a great week of practice and I felt good about that. It was a short week, which is new for me and for us as a staff. We normally play Saturdays, but I thought the kids adjusted to the short week. I also thought the staff did a great job. We made some notes for things we could do a little differently or better on a short week in the future.
“To win the football game Saturday and do it in a business-like fashion was what I wanted. I was very impressed with the football team. I was impressed with the improvement from game one to game two. That’s when the biggest improvement usually comes.
“My goal and purpose going into the game was to be professional, go about it in a business-like manner and take care of business. I wanted to focus on us, like we always will. It’s never about the opponent, but to get the players to focus on themselves, our football team and make sure we get better. We can control that. We can control how hard we work, practice and prepare. We can do those kinds of things, and the kids did. I was very pleased with the win.”
On Improvements That Can Be Made
“There are some things from that game against Memphis we can learn from. One of the things I’ve emphasized to them is that the game is divided up into parts. The first is starting fast, which I think we did versus Memphis. Another is right before the half. That’s a momentum time where we would like to get some points going into the break. We missed a field goal there Saturday. [Offensive coordinator] Lincoln [Riley] and I debated about trying to get in one more play. With six seconds it would have been tough. It usually takes about 12 seconds to get two plays in so we didn’t want to take a chance not getting in the field-goal try.
“Right after the half is the third part. We want to make sure we get off to a fast start in the third quarter. Then the fourth quarter is always important because you want to finish strong.
“We can teach and learn from this film and game as a team and program to help us become stronger and better throughout the year.”
On Playing Together
“During the Memphis game, we had about six-straight series where we did some positive things before a break. That happened during the frenzied part of the first half where we were creating turnovers on defense and capitalizing on those mistakes.
“I was pleased with that and we can teach from that.”
On The Fundamentals
“There are some individual things I’ve asked guys to work on and improvements among the group. The players and groups, like offensive line and defensive lines for example, need to improve their weaknesses.”
On Switching From Home Games To Road Games
“Now we start getting on the road, which is going to be fun. I’m looking forward to that. It’s another challenge and growth part of our team. I’m looking forward to going on the road and I think our players are, too.”
On Virginia Tech
“I’ve had a chance to watch the defense against Boise and it was really a hard-fought game. A lot of energy was expended by both teams, but especially by Virginia Tech. That game was played on Monday, so the team had a short week to turn around and play on Saturday against James Madison. That was tough for them.
“James Madison came in and it was definitely an upset. I’m not sure why or what caused it, but I know Coach Beamer and have known him since 1989. I had a chance to go up there and study with him and his staff when I was at Appalachian State. Bud Foster, the defensive coordinator, is really a great, great coach. I know those guys are not happy with where they are and I know they will do a great job getting that team together.
“We have to worry about ourselves again this week and not Virginia Tech as much. Even though we respect Virginia Tech, we have to make sure we take care of our business and what we can control.”
On Virginia Tech’s Offense
“Ryan Williams is one of the best running backs in the country. He was a Third-Team All-America last year and we know what he can do. He’s very powerful and quick. They have a big-play receiver in Jarrett Boykin. We’re really going to have to keep our eye on him with Emanuel Davis and Travis Simmons on the edges.
“The offensive line returns three-out-of-five starters from last year. Three of those five were tight ends coming out of high school, which means they’re pretty good athletes. It’ll be an athletic group.”
On Virginia Tech’s Defense And Special Teams
“The two leaders and mainstays are in the secondary. Rashad Carmichael, the boundary corner, is a typical Virginia Tech cornerback. He’s fast, athletic and will be an NFL guy. At the rover position is Davon Morgan, who is a really good football player and returning starter. I have a lot of respect for them.
“The special teams are where I think Coach Beamer has excelled. They have excellent specialists. Chris Hazley is four-of-five on field goals and Bryan Saunders is averaging 45.0 yards per punt. The return guys have not had many opportunities in the punt game this year. Jayron Hosley returned for them last year and averaged over 11 yards per return. The kickoff returners are David Wilson and Dyrell Roberts, who each average over 20 yards per return.
“We know we’re facing a team that has its back up against the wall a little bit. They’re at home and they’ll be ready to play. We have to make sure we’re taking care of East Carolina and having a great week of preparation.”
On The Injuries
On Playing On The Road With A Lot Of Crowd Noise
“It’ll have to be more of a silent count Saturday. The exchange from Lincoln on the sideline to quarterback Dominique Davis on the field is something that they’ve worked on for the past two weeks. I hope that preparation carries into this week. We know it’ll be a deafening sound.
“It’s big for us to focus on making sure everybody is on the same page. Everybody has to do a great job of communicating. Communicating is not just big on offense, but it’s also big on defense with checks and getting us in the right coverages and fronts. We started to address that last night at practice.”
On Momentum For A Team
“I think momentum is a positive thing. Those four points of the game that I mentioned earlier with starting fast, the end of the first half, the beginning of the second half and the fourth quarter, are times when momentum builds.
“The biggest thing is that you would like to have an even keel if at all possible. You want to compete at the highest level and focus on each play. You don’t want the up and down from play to play. You like to have everything at an equally high pace, but players are human.
“I know Coach Beamer will have his team ready to play. I have a lot of respect for what he does and has done. He also has great assistants who have been around the game a long time. I know they’re focusing on themselves and on getting better this week. We have to do the same here.”
On Virginia Tech’s Defense Compared To Tulsa And Memphis
On Virginia Tech’s Style Of Offense
“We have to keep growing and improving as a defense. We now have guys with two starts and games under their belts. I’m glad those games were at home. Those games were very important. We hope to call on that experience this week.
“We know Virginia Tech believes in the ground-and-pound style. That won’t be new to us. It all starts up front with the defensive line. The rotations we had last week were very valuable as we added Michael Brooks, Antonio Allison and Derrell Johnson. We know what we’re facing and what we have to do.”
On Virginia Tech’s Special Teams Abilities
“Special teams are very important in my mind, even before facing Virginia Tech. We know their reputation and I respect what they have done on special teams. We know that’s an emphasis for them and always has been. We know we have to do a great job this week.”
On Containing Tyrod Taylor
“You can’t go in there fearing him and we won’t. You have to go in there prepared, attacking and ready. We have to be smart and contain him. There will be certain packages that we have for everyone, especially mobile quarterbacks, which he is.”
On The Defensive Players Returning And The Rotations
“There are certain groups you can’t rotate like secondary, offensive line and quarterback, but the other positions we can rotate. At running back we tried to play Giavanni Ruffin and Jonathan Williams equal reps if we could. Receivers, you could see my rotations there. Even though you want Dwayne Harris on the field every play, he’s on every return team we have so we have to play smart with him.
“I want more rotations to keep guys fresh. We want to play an up-tempo game on offense and defense as well so the subs are very important. Getting Brooks, Allison and Johnson back on defense was big for us.
On This Game’s Impact On Virginia Recruiting
“There are some really good coaches and athletes in that area. The biggest thing in recruiting is winning football games. We’re working hard on it. The coaches up there have been very receptive to East Carolina.”
On ECU Recruiting
“Recruiting is facilities. That’s a big part of it. Our facilities sold themselves to the recruits who were here. Then the recruits were able to come inside the facilities and feel what’s inside of them. What’s inside of a man, team, program and university comes out of a man, team, program and university. The recruits were definitely a part of that. I know they felt what we felt. After the game in the locker room, there were a lot of excited kids. That’s a very positive thing.”
On Outside Respect For The Team
“I know our team is very excited about the win. I like our team because they’ve already put that win away. They had a really sharp Sunday practice. I only worry about the respect that happens in that locker room.”