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McNeill's Weekly Press Conference

Go Tigers! Fourth-Year Head Coach Ruffin McNeill
Go Tigers!
Fourth-Year Head Coach Ruffin McNeill
Go Tigers!

Nov. 18, 2013

Coach McNeill Press Conference

GREENVILLE, N.C. - Fourth-year East Carolina Head Coach Ruffin McNeill addressed members of the media Monday prior to this week's road game against NC State. The following are selected comments:

Opening Statement:
"It was good to get the win on Saturday, to say the least. I was very happy with the way our team approached the game. We had a very good focus last week in practice and it carried over into the game. We knew UAB would come in and try to control with clock with the run game and a lot of closed sets, perhaps trying to run the clock down - similar to what FIU did - to limit us on offense. I thought our defense did a good job of holding them and getting them in third-down situations.

"I was very proud for our senior group. This group has been with us from the beginning. They've done everything we've asked them to do and they brought a core of leadership to our team that everyone who comes in here will have to follow. It was good for them and good for our program to make sure we finished properly in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. I speak on behalf of everyone on how proud we are of our venue.

"I thought all three sides of the ball had a positive effect on the game. They're playing very well together. I thought they sustained play-after-play. We talk to them about "OPAT" or "One Play at A Time." I'm very fortunate to have a great [coaching] staff that works hard. They put up with me a lot, and that's hard to do. They do a great job of planning and adjusting. Our players have done a great job of embracing or grasping the adjustments they make and taking them to the field.

"We were able to get some young guys in during the game, which is always valuable with game reps in front of fans and family. They were really positive reps for those guys. The senior contribution was evident. Sometimes these groups get overlooked on the offensive line and defensive line. They do a really good job up front, controlling the line of scrimmage. Derrell (Johnson) and Kyle (Tudor) - what a great way those guys ended with interceptions. They were riding Derrell pretty hard that he didn't get to the endzone and Kyle can do that because he did get to the endzone. Everyone on the sideline knew that once Kyle got it, he would run over a brick wall to get to in the endzone.

"The key point for us this week is making sure we keep improving and get better each week, each day and each play in practice. When I say that, that's the mantra of the belief and what we want as a team. We'll need to play at a high level this week, and we know that. We'll need to execute at a high level, and we know that, too. We have to have consistent play from all three sides of the ball."

On NC State Head Coach Dave Doeren:
"I've known Dave for quite a long time - 15 years to be exact. When he was a graduate assistant at Southern Cal and I was at Fresno State, we would go down and visit and talk football. Dave, at that time, was a graduate assistant, but he would take all of the visiting staffs and actually talk ball. We do it now with our GA's, so they can learn how to deliver and present in front of groups. It's just a part of a teaching tool that you can use. I knew he wouldn't be an assistant for long. He was at Montana where he did a great job there, and then he went up against us in the Big 12 at Kansas. He then moved to Wisconsin and then of course with Jeff Compher at Northern Illinois, where he won back-to-back MAC Championships. I have a lot of respect for Dave, not just as a coach, but also as a friend. He's a great recruiter, he's going to do a great job over there at NC State and he's building the program the way he wants to do it. I'm looking forward to seeing Dave and talking to him before the game."

On NC State:
"Offensively, they've rotated two quarterbacks in Pete Thomas and Brandon Mitchell. Both of them are transfers. Pete is from Colorado State and Brandon is from Arkansas. They both have the ability to run and Dave has designed quarterback runs with both. He is also getting his system in from shifts and motions to closed sets, to open sets, and you can see the same things Dave did at NIU with this group. Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes alternate at the running back position. Rashard Smith is a really athletic receiver and he's also one of the top punt returners in the nation. We'll face three of the top punt-return guys in the nation, starting from last week, to this week and through next week. Quintin Payton also stands out. Duran Christophe is a starting guard and he's done very well. Tyson Chandler, their right tackle, he's 6'7 344-pounds, and a good football player with good feet and good mobility.

"Defensively, they bring back five starters. They've had 20 turnovers caused by 12 picks and eight fumbles. They're No. 3 in the conference over there in pass defense and Robert Caldwell stands out. He's another big linebacker like the linebacker [Shawn Jackson] from Tulsa, who moves very well. He's big, covers ground well, and he's strong. Dontae Johnson, Art Norman and Thomas Teal are guys who, especially inside, you see them cause double teams. We have to make sure we occupy them and do a great job up front.

"We know it will be an exciting crowd and an exciting venue to play in. We must have a great week of practice and stayed focused. We will do that, and that starts with me."

On Where The ECU-NC State Rivalry Ranks Among East Carolina's Rivalries:
"They all rank evenly, right at the top. I have a lot of respect for North Carolina State and their tradition there. The first person who called me when I got the job here was Coach [Tom] O'Brien. The second person to call me was Coach [Bill] Snyder at Kansas State, just to say congratulations. I know Dave and I have a lot of respect for their program. They're all big games right now. We have to make sure we play well. It's a big game for Dave and it's a big game for us."

On How The Coaching Staff Keeps The Players' Emotions Grounded Throughout The Week:
"I think keeping the vision in perspective. I can't tell you how proud I am of our kids and coaches who are grasping this concept. If you can watch the film from the game with me, you can see them play that play the best they can. I use this phrase: `all you got, best you got, ball til' you fall on that play, and go to the next one.' With that in mind, that keeps it grounded. Even more, it's all about the kids and the players we have. Those guys will not let us go below the performance that we wish to have each game and each play. It's very hard for anybody when your best players go full speed in practice, play with nicks and bruises and don't miss a snap. It's amazing how the rest of the team follows suit. Coaching-wise, we're on the same page. We keep everyone on the same page and we don't get outside that box."

On His Memories Of Playing At NC State As A Player:
"I played them there when I was at Texas Tech. Philip Rivers - I think we made him a first round draft choice that day we played them over there. That was the last game my mom saw me coach. It's my first time here, as a coach, going over there. It was always fun to play as a player. My first start was over there as a player, and my eyes were as big as saucers. I think Johnny Evans threw for 5,000 yards that day against our secondary and he's still probably throwing it."

On How Much Recruiting Momentum Carries Into The NC State Game:
"Dave and his staff pounds the bushes just like we do. I love our staff because even right now in between film, we're evaluating players for 2014 and 2015. It's always a continuing process. I think what we have here sells itself. We have a great university, a variety of disciplines academically and support systems. Everything about our university is on the ascending mode from the academic part to the athletic part. We'll keep growing and adding on.

"You won't find a better administration to lead your group. Our venue is second to none. If you want to feel excitement and love when you're playing, then you can come here. We have things in place program-wise that will fit any prospect's needs from academic support, to having guys in the sports medicine field to keep them healthy, to one of the best strength programs in the country at getting them bigger, faster and stronger. Our programs here are geared to provide and expect comprehensive excellence in all parts. I'm sure our recruits keep an eye on that, and how we play.

"I take the responsibility of being responsible for a parent's most prized possession - their son - very seriously. We have a family atmosphere here. I can't operate in a CEO-type mode. I'm daddy when they come here, the coaches are their uncles and they have about 120-plus big brothers to wait on them."

On What He Saw In NC State's Struggles During Their Losing Streak:
"It's just like when we came here in that you have a package in mind. Dave has what he wants to run offensively, defensively and on special teams. You have to get the players and parts that fit that, particular to what you want. I know just by studying what Dave has done at NIU, and what he's been around from Montana to Kansas to Wisconsin, and they're all different styles. Dave's been plagued by the injury bug and we have, too. I'm not thinking for Dave, but I know how it was for us when we came here. I think Dave is putting his system in and I know he is, piece-by-piece, because we've talked about it."

On ECU Fans Being Present In The Stands At NC State:
"I think that's one of the things that is attractive for recruits. I know it's also attractive for any bowl representatives that are there, knowing that our fans travel. It's been a long trip for our fans, but we were in Miami and there was a ship-full of them there. Our Pirates travel and wherever our boat goes, they're there. I always like seeing the purple and gold. I know a lot of parents' travel, and graduates, but they definitely have a Pirate State Of Mind when they arrive. I like that though."

On What It Means To The Program With The Opportunity To Beat Two In-State, BCS-Qualifying Schools In The Same Season:
"I just want to make sure we play well and make sure we get better. That's the thing we're concerned with."

On If He Thinks The Team Is Peaking At This Point In The Season:
"I think we've gotten better each week. I think there are a lot of things we can improve upon on all three sides of the ball. The biggest things are consistency, execution and use of fundamentals. I'm not over-exaggerating that. We can get better at those things. We're starting to play a little bit smarter, and what I mean by that is penalties. I think it's big that we're always making good decisions on the field at all positions. I think the kids have been able to focus and hone-in on what we want them to do. If we can continue that improvement, I'll be very proud of us."

On Running Back Breon Allen's Emergence:
"He's gotten better. He missed a large part of camp because of a nagging injury. He provides a different gear for us. He and Tay (Cooper) work well together. He's a fun-loving kid to be around in practice. He always has a big smile on his face. He's got a surge about him. We tell our guys not to count their reps, but make their reps count. Breon has done that. Every rep he takes advantage of, he makes sure it's his best rep of the day.

"Chris Hairston came in and had some very valuable carries as well. About two or three years ago, we found out we needed to make sure the running-back position had plenty of depth because it's a position that takes on punishment. Breon has gotten better at protection. On one of Tay's runs toward to the goal line, Breon had an excellent block on the linebacker and that's something you don't see during the game because it's going too fast. He took pride in it. To see those guys blocking for another, that's the sacrifice I'm talking about. I'm proud of Breon and his progress."