Fourth-Year Head Coach Ruffin McNeill
Nov. 4, 2013
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Fourth-year East Carolina Head Coach Ruffin McNeill addressed members of the media Monday prior to this week's home game against Tulsa. The following are selected comments:
"It was great to get the win at FIU. We knew we would face a team that was feisty and I knew who was coaching them. Coach [Ron] Turner has been at every level in the coaching profession. He has great respect for our program, and I have great respect for him. To go on the road and win is hard. I think sometimes there's a tendency to forget that.
" I liked the poise of our team. They have pride in their performance and what they want to accomplish, and we're not there yet. There's a lot of work to be done. I like the progress they've made and the leaders of our team have done a great job.
"I thought we played very hard and we expect to play hard every game. It takes talent to be able to play hard and go full speed. Not everybody can, and it takes a lot of mental discipline to do that and do it for a sustained period of time. I think our fundamentals are very good at this point in the year.
"We have a great task ahead of us this week. Tulsa has had injury problems, but so have we. Coach [Bill] Blankenship is a really good coach and he's done a really good job of putting his people and kids in place. They will be one of the biggest teams we've seen this year on both sides of the ball.
"We're happy to be back at Dowdy-Ficklen this week. I may be biased, but we'll see the best venue these next two weeks at home. It's nothing against anybody else, but I love our fans and I think they're second to none."
"Offensively, Cody Green is their quarterback from last year and he's a big, big human being. I remember him from his time at Nebraska. I know Coach Blankenship rotated him with Dane Evans in a few games, so we'll prepare for both. They have a quarterback-designed offense where they have a weapon and one of the best [running] backs in the league in Trey Watts. I know he's up for a lot of awards and deservedly so. He's one of the many players we need to be concerned with.
"Defensively, they have five starters from their championship team coming back. They blitz a little bit more in some games than others, but they really do a good job of playing base defense with some movement and stunts up front. Shawn Jackson is their leader. He's one of the best linebackers in the league and he'll be playing on Sundays - he's just that good. Michael Mudoh is a very physical safety. We have to be aware of him. They'll be well-coached and they have players that have been through a championship run."
If The Tulsa Game Means More Since It Was His First Win As The Head Coach At East Carolina:
"It has a special meaning. I remember after that game, Coach [Terry Holland] and the staff gave me a game ball for my first win. They have a lot of tradition at Tulsa over the years. They recruit from Texas and Oklahoma, which are two really good football recruiting states."
On Handling Warren Harvey Despite His Struggles On The Field:
"We just keep giving him confidence and putting him in those situations. It takes encouragement. He'll be fine."
On Isaiah Jones' Performance Of Late:
"Isaiah has stepped up and earned the position. He's been productive. He's really advanced with football knowledge. Some kids can understand a part of a concept and some kids get the entire concept of what we're trying to do offensively. Isaiah sees the whole concept, which makes it easy for him. That's why he's been able to play three positions in the first three weeks as a freshman. He comes from a great blood line. His dad, Robert, is one of the best players that ever played here. Isaiah will keep getting better because he's learning from some good guys. He's always seeking knowledge, which is very rare for a young player. What he does well for a young player is block and he is very aggressive."
On Entering And Playing In The Last Few Games As A Member Of Conference USA:
"All of the officiating crews we run across, who have done our scrimmages or games, have said they'll miss us. So I think that speaks volumes. Our focus is just doing the best we can each week. We have a lot of repetitions left as a team within this league, so we'll focus on each rep, each time."
On Linebacker Montese Overton's Performance:
"Montese has played well all year on defense and special teams. He is one of those young guys who probably could have played as a freshman, ability-wise, but he was not ready at that time. He's really improved his technique and is maturing before my eyes. He was able to affect the quarterback on Saturday and I was happy with what he brought to the table. Now, I want him to do it again."
If He's Surprised With Tulsa's Struggles This Season:
"I know they came off of a great year and they lost some key players. I couldn't answer that truthfully because I'm not inside their program. I know they play extremely hard on film. Coach Blankenship has his systems in place and he understands how to do it."
On Justin Hardy's Touchdown Pass Against FIU:
"Lincoln [Riley] goes into the game with two or three `trick plays'. We tried it earlier in the season and I think Justin had a receiver open, but we didn't complete it. It was a great call and Coach [Dave] Nichol up top recognizing the timing for the play. I'm glad it connected."
On The Team's Pass Rush And Generating So Much Pressure Against FIU:
"I thought we controlled the run and then affected the quarterback. The kids did a great job of executing. Interior-pressure sacks are hard to come by, so if you can create pressure and tighten the pocket around the quarterback, I'll take that. I'll take hurries."
On The Meaning Of Homecoming:
"I know it's a lot of festivities for our Pirate family. I know it will be first class and everyone will enjoy themselves and be safe. I know it will be a very joyous occasion in Greenville."