ECU Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill discussed the season-opening game against Virginia Tech.
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 was very pleased with the win. I was really worried about the team rebounding from the exciting win we had over Tulsa. That was a big win for a group of young men who had not played much, especially to win the game in that fashion.
“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.”
“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
“I was pleased with the way we fed off each other during the game. One of the things we emphasized for the game was having the offense, defense and special teams play together. We keep a record of consecutive plays during the game. We track series plays such as a great kickoff, great coverage, a defensive three and out. Then it carries over to forcing a punt, getting a great return, the offense taking it down and scoring, making the extra point and another great kickoff. We see how many times we can do it in a row. We challenge each group to not break the streak.
“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
“Our fundamentals need to keep being in the forefront for us. We need to improve on technique and fundamentals throughout the year. Just because we’re into the season now, we can’t neglect those aspects.
“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
“I’m very happy with the win. Back-to-back weeks in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium with packed houses was great. It was a perfect venue to start off the season and get our feet on the ground. We’re two games into the conference season and have two wins, which I think is very big.
“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
“We face a Virginia Tech team that has had two tough losses. They lost a game to Boise State that really had a great buildup, starting from last year’s bowl games. A lot of people and the media pointed to it as a big game, which it was.
“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
“We know they’ll be well coached and that they have great athletes. Tyrod Taylor at quarterback is a dual threat. We have to be ready to face another dual-threat quarterback, like we did in week one against G.J. Kinne and Tulsa. Taylor can throw and run equally well.
“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
“Defense is where I think their strength has been, as well as special teams. Their top defensive lineman is John Graves, who is really strong and quick. He has great technique and power. Lyndell Gibson is a linebacker who plays the run and pass equally well. We have to be aware of him.
“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
“We have everybody back who we had last week. We hope to get Jimmy Booth back, but he might be a week away. We’ll have to wait see. There are always nicks and bruises, but we have to deal with that. We feel good about where we are.”
On Playing On The Road With A Lot Of Crowd Noise
“One of the things Coach Holland and [head baseball coach] Billy Godwin have helped us to do is pump in noise every week before a game. This week that will be Thursday. After the initial warm-ups, the entire practice has been conducted under the noise, even for these home games. That’ll be one thing that we’ll keep up with.
“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 the biggest thing we have is confidence as a group. We are a group that had to replace a lot of guys from back-to-back Conference USA championships. The first game going down to the wire and last week fighting through some adversity and lulls during the contest helps us grow. To be able to win the football game and grow at the same time is definitely a positive.
“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
“It’s a big challenge. They have great athletes on defense. They’re a little young. They have speed at each position. They’ve always been impressive to me up front. Not necessarily with big guys, but they have had powerful young men up front. In the secondary, they have guys who can run and have range. They’ll be different athletically. They’ll be ready to play and we have to make sure we’ll be ready to execute.”
On Virginia Tech’s Style Of Offense
“Ryan is a really good running back, one of the best in the country. He also has an athletic offensive line in front of him. Stopping the run game is going to be important for us defensively. Trying to get them in second-and-long as well as third-and-long situations is going to be important.
“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 with me is always extra. We know Beamer Ball and that theory. With me being a special teams coordinator in the past, it’s very important to me. I’m in the special teams meeting every day with Clay McGuire and the group. I trust Clay and thought our improvement in special teams was huge. We had field position exchanged. How many other plays can you get 30-60 yards on one play?
“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
“We can’t have any fear, not in this game. You have to do what you have to do. The biggest thing with Taylor is containing him. He’s mobile and they do a great job of trying to get him on the edge. You have to be conscious of that and we are. We have some packages that can spy and we have that ready.
“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
“One of the things I wanted was to get Brooks 20-22 snaps. He had 29, which was a few too many for his first game. To have rotations along the line is very important. I want to play eight guys up front. When rotations happen, it’s on my order.
“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
“We hit Virginia hard now. When I was here, I played with a few guys from Virginia Beach and that area. Virginia is big for us and the recruiting is right next door. We’re closer than Blacksburg to some of the places in Virginia.
“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
“Kids are excited. They’re enthused with what we have here. To come into the atmosphere we had in that stadium and see the crowd, fans and support we have here, which is impressive. Then you can see the renovations that have been done to the stadium are second to none.
“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 don’t know about that. I respect our team with all my heart and that’s the most respect they need. I just hope we continue to do what we’re doing. As far as outside respect, I don’t have any control over that. I tend to not worry about things I can’t control.
“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.”