McNeill's Weekly Press Conference
Coach McNeill's Press Conference
Nov. 7, 2011
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Second-year East Carolina University Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill addressed members of the media prior to this week's game against UTEP. The following are selected comments:
"We knew we were facing a very good football team. They're very talented. Their offensive and defensive units have their personnel in place, but we still felt very confident going into the game after our week of preparation.
"The four non-offensive touchdowns killed us. On the first one, the ball bounced off Joe Womack's hands, ricocheted off a defender's shoulder pads and was returned for a score. The punt return was a directional kick. We knew Tracey Lampley and what he could do. We tried a directional punt away from him. Phil McNaughton hung it up and it didn't hit the ground. We wanted it to hit and roll away from Lampley.
"On the punt block, William Smith, our normal deep snapper, went down and we had to insert Charlie Coggins, our backup. Our guys were so focused on the coverage following the return for a score that Southern Miss blocked it on us. Phil got the punt off well and Coggins' snap was not a problem. They just blocked it on us.
"The last interception was a tough throw by Dominique [Davis]. Southern Miss doubled down on Justin Hardy. We felt good about that route and connected on it a few times within that coverage.
"The four non-offensive touchdowns hurt us. We felt very good about our momentum and preparation. We knew going in that both teams probably had to play error free. We felt good about where we were in progressing as a team and still feel good about where we are. We had a setback.
"We feel very confident, especially after last night's meeting and practice. I felt very good after practice last night. Our guys were running around well."
On Bouncing Back From The Loss
"When you do have a setback, you have to make sure you keep your team tight. We did that after the Houston loss and did it again starting last night. We'll bounce back. I have no doubt about that.
"I like the leaders within the group. The coaches are diving into the film now and started yesterday. The 24-hour rule was definitely in place. We regrouped and had great staff and team meetings. Now, all of our attention is on UTEP."
On The Injuries
"Reggie Bullock will still be out. Adhem Elsawi is out, but he's walking better on his knee. Marke Powell is questionable. Mike Price, with a concussion, is probable. Chris Baker is also still on the mend.
"Mike Hanley and the medical staff is doing a great job of getting those guys back and ready to play. [Assistant Athletics Director/Strength and Conditioning] Coach [Jeff] Connors and his staff are also helping with recovery."
On UTEP's Offense
"As a team, they have great speed. A lot of their players are from Texas. The receivers and running backs are exceptionally quick. At running back, senior Joe Banyard has over 500 yards rushing on just 75 carries. Mike Edwards is a wide receiver with a lot of speed.
"We have to make sure our defense adjusts to their spread looks. We'll have to have a great plan.
"They only return two starters from last year's offensive group. They've had some tough games, but they're in the same position we are. They want to make sure they finish strong, too."
On UTEP's Defense
"Up front, Horace Miller is a guy they move around, much like Jamie Collins for Southern Miss. Miller is very active. He has four sacks and more than six tackles for loss this season. We have to be aware of him.
"Linebackers Jeremy Springer and Josh Fely are also active. Each has more than 50 tackles. They get a lot of penetration and are involved in the blitz packages. In the secondary, DeShawn Grayson and Travaun Nixon are good football players.
"They have some very good athletes. They move around a lot and go into different fronts with three and four-man looks.
"We know we have to be very sound upfront and get some guys healthy. We feel good about Steven Baker, Josh Clark, Jordan Davis and Will Simmons. We have to get Grant healthy for Saturday if we can. They do so many things with movement that if we can give Dominique time and protect him, I'll feel good about what we'll be able to do. I like where we're heading along the offensive line."
On UTEP's Special Teams
"Vernon Frazier, a receiver, has a lot of speed as a returner. We will have to rise up against their special teams.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge. I can't wait to get back onto the field. The team had a great practice last night."
On The Long Trip To UTEP
On Keeping The Team Up After The Momentum Shift Following The First Interception
"The ball went through his hands, bounced off the defender's shoulder pad and went the other way. Momentum changed. In this game, that's a swing. We talked about it and reminded them to play the next play.
"There was a lot of attention on this football game by us and the kids. They wanted to play well. The momentum changed and that swung the game."
On East Carolina's Special Teams
On Gaining Bowl Eligibility
On Rio Johnson, Alex Owah And Taylor Hudson Playing Saturday
"Taylor Hudson also got some work up front. If Grant could not go, we knew we had to have another plan in place. We thought about moving Will Simmons to tackle and using Hudson at right guard. We don't want to move Steven Baker, Jordan Davis or Josh Clark from where they are now. Will has played well at right guard this season. You never move a strength to fix a weakness. Will is a strength at right guard, so we will not move him unless it's absolutely necessary. Taylor got reps just in case we need to move him in at guard and shift Will out to tackle.
"Rio did a good job making some moves and completing passes."
On The Identity Of This Season's Team
"I like the resiliency of our team, though. Our players had great meetings and practice yesterday. Coach Holland stopped by yesterday as he always does. He has been there as a coach. Our players are as resilient as any I've been around.
"I think we're a team that's excited about what it can do. I like the confidence level. We had a setback, but I like our guys because they did not hang their heads. They watched the film and saw it was more what we didn't do than what Southern Miss did do. That's not disrespecting Coach [Larry] Fedora or his team at all. There are some things we could have done to win the football game.
"We know we have three games left. There is a lot of season remaining. There are a lot of things we have on the line. We want to make sure we're bowl eligible and finish strong. There are three battles left and we're looking forward to them."
On His Team Playing Hard
"Coach Connors and I watch film together on Sundays. I want him to be a part of what we're doing. That helps what he does in the weight room with our players. He's able to watch film and we watch our strength and conditioning. He checks what I'm saying and we make sure we're playing hard.
"We need to polish up our mistakes. We need to understand the situations and not turn the ball over.
"The defense is really playing well. They're playing fast and assignment football. I really like our defensive line and how it's progressing. We're playing six productive guys there now. Our linebackers are active; they're a little beat up, but active. Jake Geary has been in there at linebacker. Justin Dixon has also come on. We have packages for him.
"We have to stay the course. That's the biggest thing I told them yesterday. We have to keep our chins up."
On The Game Plans For Southern Miss
"Defensively, I felt good about our plan. That's why I felt good going for it on fourth down in the third quarter. We convert fourth downs at a pretty high rate and the defense was playing really well. They're doing a great job with gap integrity and understanding the schemes. They're getting better each week, especially with the packages they're adding on. We felt good about it.
"To have four non-offensive touchdowns scored against us was disappointing because I really felt our defense would do a great job against them."
On Lance Lewis' Injury
"Reese Wiggins had to step up. Lance gives you the guy like Dwayne Harris, one the defense has to focus on. Lance saw double teams every game and sometimes a triple with a linebacker coming out to cover. Lance being out takes that element away.
"I think the distribution is there among our receivers. We have nine guys with double-digit catches this season, but you don't replace a guy who is one of the best receivers in the league.
"I was proud of Reese and Dayon Arrington for stepping up. Hopefully we'll have Mike Price back this week so he can give us the speed element. Not having Lance, you miss a guy who can make a difference in the game. Reese did the same thing on the second play of the game, though.
"One of the things we've tried to sell is the next guy stepping up. When the opportunity comes, you have to step up. Torrance Hunt did that when Reggie Bullock went down. When Doug Polochak went down, Josh Clark stepped in. Reese had the opportunity when we learned Lance would be out. Reese found out he was the guy and his confidence level picked up. You want those guys who are ready to go. Reese will be there again Saturday with Lance still out."
On The Impact Injuries Have Had On His Team
"We've had some strange injuries. Justin Hardy, the week he got hurt, went up and landed crazy on his leg, knocking him out.
"You know it's going to happen in this game, so we try to instill the next-guy-up philosophy. The guy who is injured has to rehab and recover, but the next guy has to take advantage of the opportunities. The more we keep developing the depth and talent levels, the drop offs will become less and less. Lance is one of the top players in the league, so there will be somewhat of a drop off.
"I'm proud of the guys for stepping up and continuing the fight.
"Another group we've had injuries within is special teams. We like to play our starters on special teams. Starters usually play on at least two special teams' units. If a guy gets injured, that interferes with the special teams, too."
On Reggie Bullock's Return
"We miss him. He is the guy in the run game who can make things happen with his cuts. I'd like to get all those guys back out there."
On Justin Jones
"It was good to see Justin Hardy out there Saturday, but it would be good to get Jones out there again. A lot of our offense is based on having Jones in the game. Zico Pasut has been solid filling in, but we'd love to have Jones back.
"Jones has two years of eligibility left right now. We have had guys receive sixth years like Doug Polochak and Patrick Pinkney. It would be good to have Justin around for a while. He is maturing in front of our eyes. I like him in our program.
"He has made growth from day one. You worried about him, but then you saw him growing and having success. He experienced success on the field last year. You just want to make sure he's OK. The time off has helped his knee heel, but they have to make sure his wrist heals properly."
On His Team's Mental State
"You keep them focused on some goals - finishing strong, gaining bowl eligibility and playing one game at a time. There was certainly disappointment because they put a lot into it. It's very important that we get right back on track. We talk about the 24-hour rule, but it was probably more like a 12-hour rule Saturday night. We looked at the film and jumped right to UTEP last night at practice."
On Having Success On The Road
"I'm looking forward to going to El Paso again. I was able to go there while I was at Texas Tech. They'll have a great crowd."
On Playing In Greenville