Third-year head coach Ruffin McNeill
Oct. 29, 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 Houston. The following are selected comments:
"I want to start off the press conference by extending blessings and prayers from the Pirate Nation to areas of the country that are about to get hit by Hurricane Sandy. We have a lot of friends and family in that portion of the country and it looks like the East Coast is going to be hit pretty hard. Hopefully those people listened to the advice that they have been given and make it through this historic storm as safely as possible."
"It was a tough loss on Saturday for us against Navy. We prepared and practiced with expectations to play well and win the football game. I have high expectations for myself, our coaching staff and our players in every game we play, and I was disappointed that we did not meet those goals and expectations. The rest of the coaching staff and our players were also disappointed with the game, but by the end of last night's weekly team meeting, we had begun focusing our attention on our next opponent (Houston) and making sure we continue to improve and get better."
"I thought we had a good practice last night where we flew around and attacked the ball. We have a resilient team and have had one since I have been here."
"We need to stay focused on us and have a great week of practice. Fundamental focus on all three sides of the ball is very important for us right now. We also need to practice with great tempo on offense."
"Taylor Hudson is still having some back problems and is questionable for Houston. Michael Dobson sustained a concussion against Navy and is also questionable. We are still hopeful Michael will be able to get cleared by our medical people and potentially play this week. Cody Lyon is questionable with his hamstring injury and could be back on Wednesday. Justin Dixon is out. Montese Overton was able to return to the field and practiced last night, so we will see if he is able to go this week."
"Houston has played really well offensively the last four games, so we know that we will need to be prepared for those guys and have all our energy and focus on them. Just like last year, Houston uses an up-tempo offense. Their defense is where they have undergone a few changes under new head coach Tony Levine. Houston will now blitz around 60 percent of the time."
"The Cougars bring back five starters on offense with the biggest returners being upfront along the offensive line. They did a good job last year against us and have improved this year with only nine sacks allowed. Jacolby Ashworth, Ty Cloud, Rowdy Harper are three guys that we saw a year ago. All of them do a good job in pass protection and opening up holes for the running attack. Our defensive line and front seven will be challenged against Houston. David Piland is the quarterback. He throws and runs the ball very well. He has 12 touchdowns and 2,400-plus yards passing. Charles Sims is the top running back with over 800 yards on the ground and 300 yards as a receiver. The young receivers that have caught my attention are Deontay Greenberry and Daniel Spencer."
"The strength of the Houston defense is the team's linebackers. Phillip Steward and Derrick Mathews are the two outside backers that are often attacking and blitzing. Both are mobile, can run and are ranked among the national leaders in tackles for loss. D.J. Hayden and Chris Cermin both stand out among the defensive backs. Houston is also strong in special teams. Their punter, Richie Leone, is averaging better than 46-yards a kick."
Areas That Stood Out From Navy Game
"A lot of the things that we worked on last week in practice were not executed. I saw many players not attacking the initial blocker on the perimeter and in general having trouble getting off of blocks to make tackles. We had great effort and guys were running and chasing after the ball, but in an inefficient manner. The type of offense that Navy runs forces you to play with great technique on every play. I thought we moved the ball extremely well on offense, but we beat ourselves too many times. I didn't really think that Navy could stop our offense and for the most part they didn't. We stopped ourselves with penalties and turnovers. On special teams, we didn't change field position like we expected. When you play a team like Navy you can't turn the ball over and give them a short field to work with."
Surprise of Navy's speed on Option
"We knew that Navy ran the option both fast and efficient. It is hard to duplicate that offense in practice. The execution is very hard to simulate at game speed. Navy's Gee Gee Greene and Bo Snelson are good runners. We put our fastest players on the scout team throughout the week, but the speed of the game changes when facing this offense live compared to a simulation in practice."
Difference between ECU's offense and Houston's offense
"The two offenses are similar. We have gone to more of a two-back set with our offense and Houston does a little bit of that, but not as often as we do. As far as spreading and distribution of the football, I think you will start to see Shane Carden doing more of what Houston has done in stretching the ball downfield as he gains experience in the offense. Houston also does an outstanding job on screen passes. Just like Vintavious Cooper is becoming a weapon out of the backfield for us, Charles Sims is for them. Piland is a mobile quarterback that can hurt you with his feet. Both Shane and Piland are young quarterbacks with a great knowledge of the game. Greenberry has great speed and stretches the field vertically just like Jabril Solomon does for us. After a rocky start to the season, Houston is really starting to get into a groove on offense. They are running a similar offense to what they were doing last year under then offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury."
Advantages of Running More Two-back Sets this Year
"It is giving us more balance than anything. Lining up with two backs this year has allowed us to throw or run out of different sets and also helps out with our blocking protections. It has allowed us to establish more of a running game than we've had in past. The growth of Cooper as a runner and Zico Pasut as a blocker is really evident. Justin Jones is also a guy that has improved on his blocking throughout the season and that gives us a tight end presence at the line of scrimmage."
Role of Reggie Bullock Going Forward
"I think you will see Reggie blend into the backfield now that he is healthy. Vintavious got a little nicked up in the last game, but he is a tough and will be okay for Houston. I think the combo between Reggie and Vintavious is a good mix with Michael Dobson also getting playing time in the backfield. Vintavious has done a great job of establishing himself in our offense. What impressed me about Reggie's game on Saturday was that he came back and didn't miss a beat with his blocking and blitz pickups. He also ran downhill very well. Perhaps watching Vintavious run in the offense these last few weeks may have help Reggie out."
"He reminds me a little of some of the Southern Miss running backs that we have seen in the past. He does a really good job of pressing the line of scrimmage and then making one-cut. He has really good vertical speed, catches the ball well out of the backfield and has good size to him. He is a veteran that has been in this offense for a number of years with great game experience and it shows."
The Defensive Focus Against Balanced Houston Offense
"You always try to eliminate the run game first and attempt to make a team like Houston one-dimensional. Our first focus is to attempt to control Charles Sims. After that, although they don't give up a lot of sacks, you want to try to get to or influence the quarterback with pressure. Ideally pressure can be gotten with just the defensive line with a few blitzes mixed in. The third thing is the need to do a great job on the back end of re-routing their receivers."
Change in Kickoff Returns This Week?
"We began to play Derrick Harris on kickoff returns a few weeks ago. He is a sure-handed returner. Lance Ray is trying hard and giving great effort, but sometimes that extra effort is causing him to fumble the ball and we can't have turnovers on special teams. Derrick is a player that does a good job of holding onto the football. At the end of a kickoff return, the most important element is to keep the football for our offense. We would like to establish better field position with special teams, but more important than that is ball security and Derrick is a player that we know will do that."
ECU's Tempo On Offense
"We feel confident that Shane can handle the faster tempo of our offense and the more he plays the faster he will be able to run it. Shane likes the faster tempo and I think he is starting to feel more comfortable. We would like our offense to run at a very fast tempo at all times. I thought the problem against Navy wasn't tempo as much as we didn't get our offense enough possessions to get any rhythm going. In order to get the offense more possessions, we need to force turnovers or force punts on defense."
Confidence of Team After Navy Game
"I am looking forward to the game against Houston. After the Navy game, I thought about how we should approach Sunday's meetings and practices. In general, win or lose we have a 24-hour rule before moving on to our next opponent. The team follows my lead and I take a lot of pride in that. It's tough to take a loss like we did to Navy, because of the amount of work that we put into it, but that is what needs to be done. I am not a good loser, but at same time I know we still have plenty of yearly goals that we can accomplish and my job is to make sure our team realizes that. We have Houston coming in to Greenville this weekend and we need to, and expect to play well. I was pleased and proud of the way we approached our business last night. I thought last night's practice was very sharp."
Keys Against Houston
"We want to keep doing what we have been doing this season and that is to keep our offense balanced with multiple backs, stretch the field vertically and run the offense at an up-tempo pace to keep the defense out of sync. We need to keep trying to exploit our advantages throughout the game. I'm sure Houston will have a similar concept when attacking our defense, but we can't worry about that. We need to keep our focus on us and make sure that we are doing everything that we can to win the game."
Offensive Problems Against Navy
"I think the problem is when offensive possessions are limited, like they were on Saturday, the rhythm of the offense is influenced and you take less chances. Navy did a few things on offense against us, but they didn't do anything that we didn't expect. I thought we moved the ball well on Navy and were hurt more by the self-inflicted errors, where we beat ourselves with a penalty or mishap. Mistakes like that need to be eliminated. We can't beat ourselves. We have been pretty good at avoiding those mistakes throughout the season and need to be that way for the rest of the season."
Development of Second Receiver
"At the inside receiver position we expect Danny Webster and Derrick Harris to potentially develop into other options. At one of the outside receiver position, we anticipate Andrew Bodenheimer getting more involved in the offense. Reese Wiggins, our other outside receiver, also needs to play a more prominent role going forward. We also would like to see Jabril Solomon targeted more often as a downfield threat. Justin Jones is another receiver that we need to get the ball to more often."
Crowd On Saturday Against Navy
"I was proud of the crowd that came out and braved the elements to watch the game against Navy. We have a great and supportive crowd. No matter the weather, Pirate Nation is always a factor for our home games. I am looking forward to playing at Dowdy-Ficklen this Saturday against Houston."