Third-year head coach Ruffin McNeill
Sept. 17, 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 North Carolina. The following are selected comments:
"It was a big win for our team on Saturday against Southern Miss. I was very happy with the resiliency that our team showed in the game. It was a tough offensive first half. We have talked about getting contributions from all sides of the ball that way when one side of the ball struggles the other two sides can carry them and that is what happened in first half against Southern Miss. I thought our special teams unit did a great job of being the glue that held our entire group together. It is the personality of our team and I like the way that unit is developing. They did an excellent job in both the returns and coverage against one of top returner teams in the country. Trent Tignor and Warren Harvey did a great job with their ball placement and allowed us to change field position throughout the game. Our defense did a great job of controlling and stopping the run. We knew coming into the game that USM's quarterback was mobile and the importance of limiting him. The defense gave up a big run to him on the first drive, but really controlled him the rest of the game. We also did a great job of influencing their passing game. Our offense started slowly in the first half, but Shane Carden kept his composure on the field and on the sideline. In the second half we came out and made some plays to help us win the game. I thought we controlled the clock very well and beat a team in Southern Miss that is very tough to defeat at home. Hattiesburg is a very tough venue to play or coach in. Winning that first conference game is always important especially coming off the tough loss to South Carolina the week before. We had a few noteworthy defensive plays that gave us an advantage - namely the 12 tackles for loss and the five sacks. We forced three turnovers and if you also count the two fourth down stops, which I do if you can stop an opponent and get the ball back immediately, than our defense took the ball away five times. I thought the team had consistent plays of 11-man football on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively we took care of the ball and committed no turnovers. I was also proud of the way that the offense stayed the course and didn't get discouraged with lack of early success."
"Justin Dixon is going to be out for the season. Jacobi Jenkins is out again this week and maybe next week as well. Kristopher Sykes is questionable to play. Michael Brooks ran a little yesterday and is probable depending on how he looks at Tuesday's practice. Leonard Paulk is still a little hobbled. We have some other normal bangs that come with playing a physical team like Southern Miss."
"North Carolina has a very talented team. We started to game plan for them last night. Larry Fedora has had a tough last two weeks with losses to Wake Forest and Louisville, but he is doing a good job with them as he gets him system installed on both offense and defense. On defense, North Carolina has a lot of guys with good size that can run. They are running a 4-2-5 look. It is a look that Coach Fedora ran at Southern Miss. Linebacker Kevin Reddick is the leader on defense. He is a really good football player. They move him around a lot more in this defensive scheme than they did in the scheme that they had been running last year. Their defense has really been attacking the offense with blitzes and stunts. Upfront Sylvester Williams is really an impact defensive lineman. He is very explosive with a great first step. The other upfront player to watch is Shawn Underwood. He also is a player that gives them strong inside push. On offense, North Carolina runs plays at a fast pace again similar to what we have seen from Southern Miss the last few years. North Carolina returns four offensive linemen this year. They were a big unit last year and they are just as big this year. South Carolina had a big line, but the North Carolina line is even bigger. They will have the size advantage so we need to make sure our technique is strong to counteract them. Wide receiver Erik Highsmith is an explosive player. Running back Giovani Bernard has been a little banged up and hasn't played lately, but it wouldn't surprise me if he returns this week. Offensively they have explosive players and a good quarterback. We need to do a great job of blending our coverages and disguising our movements. The special teams at North Carolina have always been solid."
North Carolina Quarterback Bryn Renner
"Bryn Renner is a coaches' kid and is not intimidated by the environment. He rises to the challenges. Bryn is good quarterback that was a difference maker against us last year. He is still learning a new offense, but he has the ability to grasp and excel in it."
Keys to This Week's Game
"We need to have great focus this week and correct the areas that we made mistakes on against Southern Miss. We also need to build on things that we did right. As always execution is always important. Everyone doing their particular assignment job on the same play and competing as one 11-man unit is always an area that is important. I would like to see the team start fast and build on the strong second half against Southern Miss. The way you finish a play, series and a half is always a key. We need to get points and get first downs, but we also need to continue to take care of the football. Defensively we need to try to control the run and influence the pass and the quarterback. We also need to force some turnovers to give our offense a few extra possessions. The kicking game again needs to be the glue for us. North Carolina has a strong return game and we need our coverage teams to limit what they can get. Our return teams need to be a weapon and give our offense an advantage in field position."
Message Sent With Southern Miss Victory
"That we are a resilient team whose personality is beginning to develop. I thought that we showed character in a place that has great fans and a tradition of winning. What it told us is that if we stay focused, keep correcting our previous mistakes and build on things that we did well the previous week we can be a good football. The other message that I thought was that our players can accept the changes and adjustments to the game plan that the coaching staff makes throughout the game. It is one thing to have the coaching staff make the adjustments, but the players need to apply them on the field and they did against Southern Miss."
Shane Carden's First Start
"Shane is player that has waited for his opportunity and I thought he made good decisions in his first start. I feel as if he will get better and more comfortable as he gets more game reps. I thought he handled his first start well and was very poised."
The Emotions of Playing Against North Carolina
"We need to be excited and match the energy that North Carolina will have at the beginning of the game and at the same time continue to execute our offense. After the initial hype and early game energy wears off it comes down to execution and that is what we will be preaching to our team throughout this week."
On the Team's Running Backs
"I like all four of the running backs that we are using. I liked the way all are playing and can do something different. Vintavious Cooper did a good job running the ball in the last game, but he needs to get better at blitz pickup. Our running back position is not just about running with the ball. In our system a running back needs to be able to protect, pick up the blitz, run routes and also run with the ball. I was proud of the way Vintavious has been playing. He gave us a spark and really ran downhill against Southern Miss. Reggie Bullock and Michael Dobson contributed as well and did a great job of picking up the blitz. Hunter Furr played well throughout the game against Southern Miss, but didn't get any carries.
Possibility of Changing Quarterbacks At Halftime vs. Southern Miss
"No we didn't consider switching quarterbacks. Southern Miss was playing very good defense in the first half. We weren't executing well on offense and also had a few drops to help them out. Shane Carden can throw the receivers the ball, but after that it is up to them to catch it. The receivers were hyped for the game and just needed to settle down after a few early drops. I don't think any one guy can win or lose the game and we had no discussion about changing quarterbacks since our quarterback play was not the problem. It just comes down to everyone staying focused and playing 11-man football."
On the Defense's Play Against Southern Miss
"Great pass coverage equals great pass rush and great pass rush equals great pass coverage. The two areas go hand and hand. I thought our defensive line and our linebackers did a great job of running their blitzes and stunts and staying in their lanes against the USM quarterbacks. I was glad to see us get tackles for losses against Southern Miss which keeps us on schedule and knocks them off of schedule."
On the Running Game Against Southern Miss
"We want to be more balanced and we need to be able to run the ball more effectively than we did against Southern Miss. In order for the offense to be most effective everything needs to work together as one unit. I think our offensive line has done a great job of protecting the quarterback on passing plays and establishing the line of scrimmage. Our running backs have to do a better job of reading blocks and being their own blockers."