Fourth-Year Head Coach Ruffin McNeill
Sept. 23, 2013
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Fourth-year East Carolina Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill addressed members of the media Monday prior to this week's game against North Carolina. The following are selected comments:
"It was good to get back to game-week last night. I thought the off week was needed. It came at the perfect time. We got a chance to regroup and work on things on all three sides [of the ball]. We had the chance to give some young guys who are in the mix but have not gotten as many repetitions, some reps. The guys came back last night and were very excited to get back. We exposed them to some opponent items a little bit last week, but not much. We got enough to get ahead of the curve, but we didn't want it to become stale to them. We did touch on North Carolina two out of the three days last week and dove into them full speed last night. One of the things that we knew we had to focus on this week is getting better as a team, a group and individually execution-wise; making sure we keep sharpening that tool. I think they really grasped that.
"There is no substitute for fundamental improvement, making sure we get better at the little things, from footwork to body position, blocking, tackling, routes, defensive positions and fitting on runs. We did a lot of good on good, and best on best last week to keep the speed of the game there for the guys.
"Every team we've faced has had really good special teams, both athletically and scheme-wise. The last things I talked to them about were playing fast, sustaining it, being smart, confident and then finishing. When I talk about the process, those are the things we focus on. Defensively, we've focused on taking the ball away. The one thing I want them to be selfish and greedy about is focusing on taking the ball away and giving our offense extra possessions. Offensively, I've talked about having great ball security.
"Larry [Fedora] and I have known each other for a long time from the Oklahoma State days in the Big 12 and his Southern Miss days. Larry has always been a really good football coach - a go-getter - and always an offensive-minded coach. His offense has not changed. They are a "NASCAR", fast-paced [offense]. Bryn [Renner] is a really good general and orchestrator of his offense. He does a good job of understanding what Larry wants and how to distribute the football. He's a really good leader for their offense.
"Their tight end Eric Ebron is a special football player. He'll be a first-round draft choice and we'll have to be very aware of where he is. He's done a great job improving on blocking, as well as his ability to play in space. In Larry's offense, he shows where he can play in space and on air, and they do a good job of getting him the football.
"The guy that always stands out to me on special teams, the return game and at wide receiver is Sean Tapley. He has great quickness and speed, and makes plays. Quinshad Davis is a guy I see Bryn going to quite a bit at receiver. He's rangy and has height. Quinshad is one guy that you see stepping on film. You can't miss him. He's really tall and attacks the ball well.
"Up front, Russell Bodine and James Hurst are their leaders. They're tough, they've been through some experiences and battles and are the leaders of their offensive line. I have no doubt those two guys will get all-conference honors.
"Defensively, Dan [Disch] has been there a long time with Larry, but Ron West is a guy I've known since I began coaching back in 1985 at Clemson. They're two really good football coaches. Tre Boston is active, athletic and a leader. He's a quarterback on defense and has started three years for them, so he has a lot of battles under his belt. Kareem Martin stands out every time you see him on film. He's really athletic, gets on the edge, makes plays and finishes plays. Norkeithus Otis is a linebacker/defensive end, which they move around a little bit standouts when watching the film. They have good team speed on defense. Those guys play extremely hard. I'm looking forward to the challenge and the week."
On What To Do To Get The Team Prepared Mentally:
"We've had great team poise the last three games, so we've been making sure of our fundamentals and that we don't neglect them."
On How The Defensive Has Done Reacting After Giving Up A Play:
"With the offenses we've faced, they're going to make some plays. I like our defense because even if the opposing team made a play, they come back and keep fighting. I think that's a tribute to the kids and the coaches. Even when something positive happens, we need to make sure we play the next play. That's why we routinely tell them to do your job. I've been proud of the unit and how they've progressed."
On The Familiarity Factor With Larry Fedora:
"Playing in the same division [when Fedora was] at Oklahoma State and in recruiting, we all wanted the same, typical players. We all battled and got after it on the field. I remember when he got the Southern Miss job, we were at a convention in Nashville and he told me he just got the job. I told him I was very proud of him. He did a fine job at Southern Miss and he's doing a solid job at UNC, too."
On Changes To The Depth Chart And Adding LB Kyle Tudor To The 2-Deep:
"Kyle will get some work. We'll try and increase his load a little bit each day and see if he can handle it. If he can't, we won't play him. I love the game, but I love Kyle more. He's a tough hombre, but if he's not healthy, I won't put him in the game. Our medical team does a great job. Kyle is a tough player. If he's ready to go, we sure would appreciate [having] him back.
"Josh [Hawkins] is going through the concussion program and tests. I want it to be this way, but it's a complicated test each week. Each day, he does a little something more and if he's able to do that they'll increase it. If he continues to progress through Tuesday and Wednesday, we'll have a chance to have him back."
If He Can Use Anything Georgia Tech Did To Shut Down North Carolina:
"They did a good job of being resilient. UNC stretched the field on them like they always do, but I think Georgia Tech did a good job of responding and making plays. It was messy down there. I saw they did some things, but they weren't fancy or anything like that.
"There will be some plays made in games like this - like nip and tuck. Four or five plays decide the game and you need to go full speed so you don't miss them. It was a hard-fought game. There was a lot of physicality in that game."
On What A Win Against UNC Would Mean:
"Wins are big. I just want to get on the field again for our players. The last game we played, that was a tough locker room to address. I've addressed a lot of locker rooms as a coordinator and a head coach, and its tough. These kids have invested a lot and I want to win for them first. All games are big to a coach. I understand the in-state rivalry. I'm looking forward to the competition, the contest and the challenge, but I'm looking forward to doing what we need to do to make sure we have success on Saturday."
On The Importance Of Getting Defensive Substitutions Correct With UNC's Fast Offense:
"It's always tough and that's the purpose of it. You have to get lined up. Fortunately, we faced that in the first game and it got us a little bit, but we responded well the next two games. Virginia Tech was not a "NASCAR" offense like Old Dominion or us. You have to be careful with your substitutions. You have to make sure you do them at the right time and that the players on the field understand when and where you can make them. My job is to manage the game, but our kids and our coaches' jobs are to manage the subs. That's always big in a game like this, especially with what package you play. We're careful with that so we don't hurt our team with a penalty."
On What Slowed Down The Offense Against Virginia Tech:
"They did a good job up front. They were able to play a man on the back end. Bud [Foster] has one of the top defenses in the country and you have to give him credit. We took what we learned from that game and worked on it. I like the way our staff fixes things. We'll bounce back and learn from it."
On Similarities Between Virginia Tech's And North Carolina's Defenses:
"Speed. Up front, they play with four down. They're able to recruit rangy length in the secondary. The biggest thing in a game like this is to do your job. If you want to be a hero for me, do your job and make routine plays. One thing I know we'll do is play hard. This team plays for each other as well as any team I've ever been around in coaching, and I say that without any hesitation."
On Having Similar Personnel And Playmakers On Offense And How It Helps To Prepare The Defense:
"We have some guys who can stretch the field here, and Rick [Smith] and Lincoln [Riley] do a great job of working together during practice, which is touchy. I don't breathe during that time when Shane [Carden] is out there going against Terrell [Stanley] coming off the edge. I'm as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a rocking chair store, but I blow the whistle pretty quick."
If This Is A Game That Should Still Be Played Despite The Growth Of Conferences And Reduction Of Non-Conference Games:
"I think it's good for in-state games. I know people call it our Super Bowl, but it's good for their group, too. I think it's good for both [schools]. I know the fans work in the same towns and areas. It would be fun."