McNeill's Weekly Press Conference

UABSPORTS.COM Head coach Ruffin McNeill met with the media Monday to discuss Saturday's game against UCF.
Head coach Ruffin McNeill met with the media Monday to discuss Saturday's game against UCF.

Nov. 14, 2011

Press Conference Clips

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 UCF. The following are selected comments:

Opening Statement
"The biggest things, as I said after the game, were the mistakes during the game. I thought we had ample opportunities to win the football game. We made some mistakes that cost us.

"Understanding the situations in games are things we continually emphasize. We have to understand momentum, opportunities and how to take advantage of those chances. Those things we did not do toward the end. We had a chance to win the game, but threw an interception near the end.

"On defense, the long run occurred, but I thought the defense played very solid the entire game. We lost gap integrity on the long run by Joe Banyard.

"On film, you can see we're continuing to play extremely hard. As a coach, I always want to make sure we're doing that. The kids were hurt after the game, as were the staff and coaches. We felt we had many opportunities to win the football game. It was a disappointing flight back from El Paso.

"We worked hard yesterday. We had a meeting last night and a good practice."

On The Injuries
"Detric Allen is still out, as is Brandon Williams, one of our reserve linebackers. Michael Dobson is questionable with a concussion. Adhem Elsawi is questionable. He was able to run around a little bit last night so we may be able to get him back this week.

"Lance Lewis is still questionable with his foot. We have to get it reexamined and see where it's at. Doug Polochak is still questionable. Reggie Bullock and Grant Harner are both doubtful.

"With the injuries, hopefully we get some of those offensive guys back to give the unit some continuity. We've been relatively fortunate on defense with just nicks and bruises for those guys. Last year it was just the opposite.

"Hopefully we'll get Lance back this week, but if not then next week. We're just waiting on [Assistant Athletics Director/Medical Services (Head Athletic Trainer)] Mike Hanley to see how the x-rays go.

"Not having Reggie hurts us. We lost Dobson during the game Saturday and that hurt, too. A lot of the offensive packages, especially with the screen game, were geared to Dobson. When he got the concussion, those were out. We did move Zico Pasut to running back and he'll be used a lot more there this week. He has played four positions for us this year and will be able to handle that responsibility.

"Justin Jones, who is a guy we've missed, will be back. They've now got it where the cast will allow him to play. He'll be a big part of our packages this week, which will be good."

On The Special Teams
"On special teams Saturday, we allowed two punt returns and then were able to directional punt. Ben Ryan was very solid for us. He did a good job punting. On the longest return, Ben did not hold it up in the air long enough. It was a 3.6 hang time. We directional kicked after that. For the most part, though, I thought we were solid aside from those two early returns. Our defense held strong on the first return before UTEP scored on the second one."

On UCF's Offense
"We began preparing for UCF last night. Offensively, I know Jeff Godfrey was the quarterback for them last year and led them to a Liberty Bowl win. He's now sharing time with Blake Bortles. UCF uses both of them at quarterback. They have designed runs for both of them.

"Blake is throwing the ball very well for them. Jeff has four touchdown passes and nine rushing scores so you know he's dynamic. We'll see two quarterbacks. The game plans can be similar for both. Blake does throw the football, but so does Jeff. The offense does not seem to change much no matter who is in there.

"It's another offense with a plethora of running backs. Brynn Harvey, Ronnie Weaver and Latavius Murray will all rotate at running back. Harvey will get the most carries.

"On the offensive line, they return five guys who started, but lost a big tackle [Jah Reid] to the NFL. Nick Pieschel, who has 41 career starts, will be the leader up front. They do a very good job there along the line."

On UCF's Defense And Special Teams
"They have one of the top defenses in the country again. They now rank 10th in total defense and scoring defense after Saturday's game at Southern Miss. Up front, Victor Gray is a very strong defensive tackle. He does a good job for them. I watched him a little bit on film versus Southern Miss and BYU this morning.

"Josh Linam and Jonathan Davis are the two linebackers. They'll be active. UCF will use a four-man front the majority of the time, but does use a little odd-man front. [Head coach] George [O'Leary] is blitzing a little more with this group than last year. A year ago was more of a four-man rush and having seven defend. But there is a little more blitzing this year.

"In the secondary, Kemal Ishmael and Josh Robinson do a good job.

"They have two great guys in kickoff returns with Rannell Hall and Quincy McDuffie. On punt returns, J.J. Worton and Josh Robinson are solid. All four of those guys have great speed. Nick Cattoi is the field-goal guy, who has 48-yard range.

"We have to do another great job preparing this week. It's at home and the last game for our seniors. We have a chance still with two games remaining to become bowl eligible. That's what we talked about last night. It's the last time for our seniors to play inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. We still have a lot to play for."

On Alex Owah
"Alex Owah has been suspended for the remainder of the year due to a violation of team rules. We'll reevaluate his status at the end of the season."

On Injuries Impacting The Offense
"They have not started the same lineup on offense for consecutive games. Continuity is big there on that side of the ball. Last year, we had one starter out for one game on offense and that was Cory Dowless at Rice. Every other game we had the same starters in the lineup. This year, we lost Adhem Elsawi, Doug Polochak and Grant Harner on the offensive line.

"I look out on the field and Jordan Davis is playing well after a move to guard. This was a great move. Jordan is going to be really good for us. Josh Clark has done a great job moving from tackle to center. Will Simmons has played steady. Steven Baker is a guy we weren't sure about, but he's playing well. When you lose that unit and its continuity, it affects the rest of the offense.

"Not having Lance Lewis, one of the best receivers in the league and country, hurts because he requires attention. Lance was hurt all year and it just reached the point where he couldn't go anymore.

"At running back, losing Reggie Bullock hurt, as did losing Dobson Saturday. Dobson had a great last week of practice, so losing him and the part of the offensive package focused on the screen game really hurt. When you had to move Zico Pasut, one of our top tight end and blocking guys, to running back it shows where we are. Zico did a good job running the football and was excited about it last night. We'll use Zico more because with Dobson having a concussion, he's very doubtful to return this week.

"We have to play with what we have. Torrance Hunt and Zico are who we have right now. I hope Reggie is better by tomorrow, but he really couldn't run much last night."

On The Importance Of Limiting Mistakes
"Everybody is on a short leash. We need for Dominique Davis to play smart and make good decisions. It's tough to watch those mistakes. We talk about it and emphasize maintaining possession of the football. Making decisions is a big part of the quarterback position. We have to understand game situations as an entire unit. We have to understand where we are on the field and take care of the football. Those things are very important. When you put in a lot of time and work, like Dominique does, you want to see the benefit of it."

On Dominique Davis Putting Too Much Pressure On Himself
"I think so. [Offensive coordinator] Lincoln [Riley] and I talked about it at length yesterday and we said the same thing. Maybe he's trying to force too much. Not having Lance to take away some of the attention the last two games has hurt. Lance did require double coverage.

"But you still have to make good decisions. We tried to keep some guys in, especially on the last drive, to help protect up front a little bit more. We had two backs in to help with protection."

On The Last Interception Thrown By Dominique Davis
"Most routes are based on the coverage. If it's man it's a certain route. If it's zone it's a different route. The quarterback and receiver have to be on the same page. The receivers did a great job recognizing it was zone coverage. UTEP has been a primary man team with just a little bit of zone blended in. Out of every 10 reps Saturday, UTEP may have blended in two zones.

"I think it's a combination of both parties reading the coverage and reacting to it. Travaun Nixon made a great break on it, but you just have to make good decisions. You have to eat it or throw it away."

On Building For Next Season
"One thing is that we have a young team. Of the utmost importance, though, is making sure we win these next two games. We have to give ourselves the best chance to win games. Getting Justin Jones back really helps us offensively, as would the return of Adhem.

"We have a lot of guys playing who will be back next year. Defensively, the secondary will lose guys with Bradley Jacobs, Emanuel Davis and Derek Blacknall, but they played solid the other night. We lose Antonio Allison up front, but return a lot of the defensive line and linebackers except for Cliff Perryman. Offensively, you lose Lance, Dominique and Doug Polochak, but most of the rest will be back.

"We're really playing young guys. One of the things we talked about as a staff was making sure we give ourselves the best chance to win this week. We want to beat UCF this week. We're playing such young guys that we go about 30 scripted plays every Thursday as a scrimmage to prepare for the game."

On The Running Back Situation
"Owah's was a self-caused and self-inflicted suspension. We have to play with what we have. We have Torrance there and I'm hoping moving Zico there will help. I'm still hoping Bullock can run a little bit better. If he's limping, though, we don't want to put him out there. Bullock is doing everything he can to get back, but it didn't look promising last night.

"Zico ran against UTEP. He gives you a guy who can pound. You won't have the break-away speed, but he can pound, protect and release. Torrance will also have his spots in things he does well. We'll have to have a two-back set.

"I really doubt Dobson will be back. Seeing him on the plane and yesterday, we probably won't have him back. For sure, Torrance and Zico will be back there."

On Receivers Who May Get A Few Carries
"Guys at wideout might get some chances like Mike Price and Danny Webster. Price has been practicing so well lately that we'll have to find a place for him on the field. We can also use Webster in the backfield. We had a plan for that to happen Saturday.

"This is just one of those years where we got hurt with injuries. The same thing happened last year with the defense. Now it's just a little reversed. Instead of bringing a redshirt off of a freshman, we'll bring Webster to the backfield and let him learn at inside receiver and running back."

On Taking A Redshirt Off With Just Two Regular-Season Games Remaining
"The only redshirt running back is Chris Hairston, but he is out until the spring with an injury. He's a guy who might have a chance if he was healthy. I like the way he was progressing. There really aren't young people currently redshirting who could step in and do it. I wouldn't want to do that. That wouldn't give us the best opportunity to win.

"I wouldn't take off a redshirt for two games. We took it off of Lee Pegues with five games remaining last year after we lost Michael Brooks, Justin Dixon and Marke Powell. With two regular-season games left, I wouldn't take a redshirt off of a guy."

On Increased Risk Taking With Play Calls Needing To Win The Last Two Games
"I started to go for it the other night when the ball was on the UTEP two-yard line, but I felt like it was important for us to take the lead. It was hard not to go for it. I've gone for it quite a bit on fourth down. I just felt like, for our mental psyche, we needed to get the lead with the field goal.

"George [O'Leary] has been pretty conservative after watching the film, but I'm sure they'll have some wrinkles for this week. We're going out to try and win the football game. I don't want to put our defense in a bad situation, though, because they're playing very well. We'll do everything we need to do to get a win Saturday."

On The Players Feeling Pressure To Get Two Wins
"They were down on the bus and plane Saturday night, but they ran around well last night. Kids are resilient. I think everybody was down after the game. We felt like we had opportunities to win it.

"Last night at practice, they flew around. They were excited. You saw Justin Jones getting more work and Zico in the backfield. Zico has really been a kid who has matured over the last year. He has played four positions for us and that's tough.

"We know what's in front of us. We have to play well and win these next two games. The biggest thing is just making sure we understand mistakes and the situations of the game. We have to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. In a given situation, we have to know exactly what we need to do. Whether that situation is on special teams, offense or defense, we have to know what we need. We have to eliminate bad football and play good football."

On The Emotions Surrounding Senior Day
"It's a fine line. I think about my last time playing inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. You're going to be emotional. I talked to the team about it yesterday during our meeting. I talked about how it's Senior Week and we need to send them off the right way by becoming bowl eligible and heading to a bowl.

"It's also big for our program. We need to finish off the year strong. It's for the seniors, but it's for the program, too. The program is as important as the seniors.

"The emotion, we'll try to temper that. I just want to make sure we continue to play hard, which we have all year. We need to execute, stay within the game and play well."

On Dominique Davis Being Overconfident
"I don't think it's overconfidence. I think it's more putting too much pressure on himself to make the prefect throw. We have a very good receiver in Justin Hardy, but we lost him for two weeks. We've also lost Lance Lewis. Having Justin back gives Dominique another inside weapon to go along with Andrew Bodenheimer and Reese Wiggins. Reese needs to continue stepping up for us.

"I wouldn't say overconfident, though. I think Dominique probably puts too much pressure on himself, thinking he has to carry the whole team. He doesn't have to do that. We need him to make the secure and routine throw. We don't have to have it all on one play. I'm not afraid to go for it on fourth down, so get a portion of it and get us in a workable down."

On Recruiting More Running Backs
"At running back, one thing I'm noticing is making sure we have a plethora of running backs here. The league has gone that way. UTEP and Southern Miss both have three backs. Lincoln and I have talked about that. We have to make sure we get guys and guys with size. We have one already here in transfer Hunter Furr, who is going to be a fine player for us when he gets eligibility after sitting out the year.

"We want to make sure we win this week, but at the same time we're thinking about next year. There's a place for a guy who is quick, like Reggie Bullock, but you need some guys who can be big and cause some damage running with the football.

"Injuries you have to overcome, but it has interrupted the continuity on offense. Last year with only losing one guy, it was the most productive offense in school history. You can tell the difference this year."

On Recruiting Junior College Transfers
"We won't microwave it here, but we'll have to have some junior college transfers in certain positions. We'll look for one or two guys on offense and maybe one on defense. We do not want an overload of them. There are some spots that we need some guys who can come in and make a difference.

"If he's the right guy with the right character we'll take a look. Last year I couldn't go out on the road, but now I can. I'll be on the road as soon as I'm able to and I'll be hitting every place the coaches have lined up for me. I'll be looking for the best guys. We won't neglect our high school recruiting, either.

"We will always have a place if we spot a guy who fits with his ability and character. There will be some spots, just to make sure we get everything fixed."

On Justin Hardy
"I wish we would have seen him even sooner when we got here. He reminded us of Michael Crabtree because Hardy played quarterback in high school like Crabtree did when we recruited him to Texas Tech. We saw the film and knew we liked Hardy. He also reminded us of Crabtree with his quickness and mobility.

"Justin is a good kid and great student. He is really a guy who nothing fazes. He's ahead of it. You could see it last year when he was on the scout team. He really took over in the spring, even though he and Justin Jones were sharing time.

"Saturday, Hardy dropped a slant early in the game and it didn't faze him. He was disappointed, yes, but it didn't faze him. He made three great catches, including the touchdown pass. He has got a chance to be special. He'll continue to work hard. That's the type of kid he is.

"He is full speed every snap, both in games and practice. He takes a lot of pride in preparing himself. I'm glad he's here. He has something about him. He'll be a guy who can make a difference in our program. He conducts himself well off the field and on the field speaks for itself."