Sept. 30, 2013
Coach McNeill Press Conference
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Fourth-Year East Carolina Head Coach Ruffin McNeill addresses members of the media Monday prior to this week's game against Middle Tennessee. The following are selected comments:
"I'm very pleased with the win on Saturday. It was a well-fought and physical football game. I was very proud of how we reacted. Life is 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent of how you react to it. I was very proud of how we reacted after our last time out against Virginia Tech. Our coaches and players did a great job in executing the game plan.
"On special teams, we were facing a very talented and athletic football team, and there was a lot of give and take on both sides. The two field goals by Warren [Harvey] in the second half were big. I thought Lance [Ray] was very valuable in getting us some positive yardage in the return game. He is one of the tops in the conference and in the top 30 in the country [in return yards].
"Last night at our practice, I had the opportunity to tell the demo team - we call them the victory team - that they did a great job of being selfishly-unselfish. The locker room was the most gratifying thing to me. It's a sacred place because it's the greatest laboratory for human behavior. When the program wins, the university wins. When the university wins, Pirate Nation wins.
On Middle Tennessee
"We have to move on and get ready for this next one. [Rick] Stockstill is a really good football coach and Tyrone [Nix] is a great defensive coordinator, and they have skill players on all three sides of the ball. It's a group I'm very familiar with."
"It starts in the middle with [quarterback] Kevin Kilgore. He's a great general for their offense and reminds me a little of Taylor Heinicke from Old Dominion. He has good arm strength and can make all the throws from hash to sideline. He started all 12 games last year and he's a great leader.
"At the running back position [with] Jordan Parker and Reggie Watley, they both have breakaway speed. Like our offense, they involve the running backs in the passing game. We're facing a spread offense, but Stock has that old school part of him where he likes to run the football. So we have to be aware of that, defensively.
"The offensive line is what first caught my eye because they have four returning starters and they play well together. We have to be ready to get into the next level, especially up front defensive line and and linebacker-wise. I've known Stock since I got into coaching in 1985, so we've been friends for quite a long time.
"At the skill positions, Tavarres Jefferson and Kyle Griswould are really good football players. They catch the ball and get a lot of yards after the catch, so we have to be sure we're ready to go there.
"On defense, they have seven starters returning. Kevin Byard [safety], is their leader on the back end. He reminds me a little of Tre Boston in that he has a great instinct for the ball. Others that we need to look out for are T.T. Barber at linebacker and Jimmy Staten on the defensive line. They really fly to the ball and have attacking-type mentalities."
On Addressing The Team To Avoid A Letdown After The Big Win Last Weekend:
"The reason we need to play is because they're next. Of course with the emotion of the game last week will take over, but from day one, it's not about what we do, but how we do it. The thing I've asked them to do - and this is what they have to learn to do and it's hard because I can't guard them 24 hours a day - is to drown out the noise. It can be a positive or a negative noise. If it's outside the second floor, it's bad noise. I tell them to focus in on what I tell them.
"I believe in how we coach and teach them. I believe in the core of this team and that they won't flinch. All of that tells me that the only thing to worry about is our team. That's no disrespect to any opponent because we respect everyone, but the one thing I can control as a coach is how we prepare, and how we do the little things as people call them. To me they are big things. The screws are never too tight and the hay is never in the barn for us. That's the discipline we need to have this week."
On Why The Offensive Line Had Such A Big Day Against North Carolina:
"I thought [offensive line coach] Brandon Jones has done a great job, year-by-year, of getting that unit ready to play. I was talking to him before we came down to the press conference, and he compared it to the time we played Texas [at Texas Tech], and we had to block the athletes on their offensive line. A reason Vintavious Cooper got some of those big runs was because our receivers were aggressive. They were blocking. They took a lot of pride in blocking for their teammates and that all comes with being unselfish."
On The Progression Of Lance Ray:
"Lance joined us late last year. When I first met him during the recruiting process, I knew he was a good kid and that he worked hard. [Strength] Coach [Jeff] Connors has a chart of average, good, excellent or freak categories in the weight room. For Coach C, it's hard to reach `freak' status, which Lance had done. The biggest indicator was when I got Lance's grade report back from the spring semester, and it was excellent. That told me about him. This summer he worked hard by himself. It reminded me a little bit of what I saw Graham [Harrell] and Michael [Crabtree] do. He didn't count his reps; he made his reps count."
On How The Team Was Able To Slow Down UNC Tight End Eric Ebron:
"He's definitely a first round guy. We had to make sure we kept eyes on him. You're not going to stop a guy like that - you just try to control him, re-route him and change coverage's on him. We had to make sure we kept hands on him."
On How Rewarding It Was To See QB Shane Carden Respond After The Loss To Virginia Tech:
"We want to get as many of those guys in our program. They're called self-motivated student-athletes. I love motivating because everyone is not trained the same. Everybody learns differently. He definitely has the `Coach Me, Coach' mentality."
On The Encouragement Of Having Reserves Step Up And Produce:
"Those kids made their reps count. When you're not in practice, you can still learn. When you're opportunity comes, or your number is dialed, you can pick up the phone. Being able to bring Kyle [Tudor] in slowly and not giving him too many reps too early was good. Maybe we can give him a little more of a workload this week. All we ask them to do is the best they can do and not worry about being better than the next man."
On Justin Hardy's Block In The North Carolina Game:
"When I talk about how we do good-on-good's and best-on-bests, that's when I get nervous. Justin is a quiet leader. He speaks about three or four sentences on the field. Dwayne [Harris] was like that, so was [Michael] Crabtree and Wes Welker. They don't speak too much, but they strain on every play and that's a tribute to Coach Connors. We can play all day and that's how we're built. We take pride in how we're built. Zico Pasut blocked well. He's one of the most valuable players on our team. He can play any position on our team right now without any work. He can play tight end, flex, tailback, fullback and he plays all special teams. He doesn't have many missed assignments. He definitely has a positive effect on our team."