Dec. 18, 2013
Coach McNeill Press Conference
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Fourth-year East Carolina University Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill addressed members of the media prior to the team's upcoming bowl game against Ohio. The following are selected comments:
"We're looking forward to getting down to St. Petersburg and we're honored to be able to play in the post-season. The post-season is very important to programs and especially our program. To be selected to the Beef `O' Brady's Bowl is an honor. We were down there last week to see the venue and for press conferences. I've been to a lot of bowls from the Cotton Bowl, to the Alamo Bowl to the Gator Bowl, and this is really going to be a nice bowl setting for our players and coaches. It's going to be a great indoor game at Tropicana Field.
"It's a great chance for us to show the nation what kind of backing we have and why we're so attractive when the Pirate Nation shows up in full force. I'm expecting us to show up in full force. I know it's close to the holidays, but one of the things that makes a team attractive is you have to have a good program, and put a good product on the field.
"This process started right after the Marshall game. Our team is a very resilient team. They have been that way all year. The following week, I had three items for the team to dive into and embrace, and they did it with a passion. One was to make sure they finished strong academically and the kids did that very well. Next was to rehab with Jake [Moore] in our sports medicine department, and then work hard with [strength coach] Jeff Connors. J.C. got after them and his report was, `Excellent work, great attendance as always and we got a lot of work done - great conditioning'. That was a week where we were recruiting. It's really a week where you have to mesh things correctly, but we don't have a large window of recruiting time. We have two weeks before and two weeks after the national convention to recruit, which is not very long to get into homes.
"The following week, we began what we call `Varsity Shorts'. At Texas Tech and before, we develop what is the best plan to get them ready through a series of talking and discussing. Varsity Shorts is an NFL-type setup where reps are counted. We work out starters and guys get a lot of playing time during those five to six days of one-on-one's, good-on-good's and best-on-best's. It's very intense, but it's a part of their development. In the second part of that, the old guys finish and they go in to condition with Coach Connors. The rest of the coaching staff and I take the younger guys, redshirts and guys who didn't play much through a second practice. That's where you get the jump on spring ball. We develop those kids and it's very intense where you get those guys 30 to 40 high-octane reps and preparing them. The young guys that we'll be counting on in the spring and next year had six days of high competition, and it really leads into spring ball.
`We began on Ohio, Saturday, after the last Varsity Shorts. We treat this first week as game week. Today is a Thursday practice for us, and it's a script practice so we'll go offense, defense and special teams just like it will be in the game. Tomorrow we will travel. We'll meet in the morning, fly down and practice tomorrow night once we arrive and go through hotel security and bowl representative engagements.
"We're very honored to be playing at this time. There are 70 teams that will be playing. We really appreciate the opportunity. I'm very proud of this team and where we're going. Now it's time to focus on playing our best game in our last game."
On Which Regular Season Opponent Ohio Is Similar To:
"They look a little bit like Old Dominion with their quarterback. Tyler [Tettleton] is a three-year starter with a lot of reps under his belt and a good bloodline. Everyone knows his dad was a pro baseball player. He's very mobile, well coached and a really good field general. They spread you and have a zone-read concept. They're also able to stretch the field vertically, so there's a good mixture of that. We have to make sure we have great gap integrity against run and pass versus Tyler. Beau Blankenship, his teammate from high school and both from the Oklahoma area, is a really good running back as well. He's quick, has great vision and size. Up front, they have a well-coached offensive line. Defensively, they're very aggressive and physical with a lot of movement up front. I've coached against Coach [Frank] Solich before and watched him coach. His team is going to be well-coached, very disciplined and fundamentally sound, and I think our team is the same way."
On The Importance Of Getting To 10 Wins:
"All wins are important to me and I really cherish them. Wins are hard. There's no such thing as a bad win or ugly win. That's one of the most ridiculous comments I could ever hear. For me, it's all about the players. This team has worked, invested and they've done everything I've asked of them. I'm really honored to be around them and proud to be their coach. To get a win, for me, would be satisfying for them. It's important for our program to go into the offseason with a win."
On How This Season's Success Has Made Former Coach Pat Dye Proud And What That Means To Him:
"I get emotional talking about Coach Dye. I talked to him the other night on the radio show and I felt like a little kid again. It was `Yes sir' and he could tell me to shut up and I would. I'm 55 years old and I'm still scared of him right now. It's not scared, like that, it's respect more than anything. He has done more for my coaching along with my dad and Donny Duncan, and shaping how I coach and who I am. I called him one day and talked to him and he told me how proud he was, and that's like a check mark for me."
On His Biggest Concern And What Jumps Out When Looking At Ohio:
"I think offensively, they play an up-beat, `NASCAR' offense like we do, so defensively, we've faced that before. They have a quarterback with a lot of snaps under his belt, so we have to be ready to change looks. You can't stay in the same thing versus him. Defensively, they're sound. The MAC is always competitive year-in and year-out. It's all about what we do. We have to work hard on execution and keeping clear minds, so we have fast legs and we can play fast on Monday."
On If He Will Say Anything To The Seniors About Their Last Practice At ECU:
"I try not to get too final about that. I will Sunday night before the game. I imagine that will be the emotional time. Zico Pasut and Jimmy Booth both said two phrases to me this year that I will put into my philosophy of coaching for the rest of my coaching career. Zico said: `Coach, this team of seniors will be selfishly unselfish.' Then during the North Carolina game, Jimmy comes to me during the game with my headphones on, taps me on the shoulder and says, `Coach, they're not built like us.' I'm proud of those two seniors. It's important to me for them to be good people off the field. I mean that. I want people to say good things about my boys. I'm obsessed with them getting their degrees, being successful and being good people. I also want them to enjoy the football experience and be the best they can."
On Senior FS Damon Magazu:
"Coaches kids are always pretty good players. When in doubt, a coach's kid and another player are both equal, I'm going with the coach's kid because they've been through the life. They're not going to be afraid of competition. You can push them hard and you can challenge them. Mags graduated with a 3.25 [grade point average] overall and made the honor roll. He doesn't make mistakes and he's a great leader. He makes plays. Every year he has made plays. He earned all-conference honors this year and it was well deserved. I'm glad that he is on our team. He quarterbacks our defensive."
On How Healthy He Feels The Team Is Going Into Monday's Bowl Game:
"I think we're in pretty good shape. We had a very physical season. I think that is one of the things that developed our depth. We had more chances to play more kids in games. I've been pleased with our team's development and I'm looking forward to keeping them healthy."
On The Key To DE/DT Terrell Stanley's Improvement:
"He's grown up and matured. He understands what it takes to play at this level, and what you did in high school has absolutely nothing to do with how you perform at the Division I level. Terrell is another guy who I thought should have gotten higher honors in the all-conference voting. He absolutely dominated this year from production on the field. It wasn't a surprise. He'll grow up and keep getting better."
On The Importance Of Letting The Players Having Some Fun Before The Bowl Game:
"The first thing is taking care of business. We have a plan where I want them to enjoy their time down there, but at the same time, we're down there to play a football game. I'll give them some time off. That's the thing about bowl games: It rewards those teams and those kids who work hard like our guys. I'm looking forward to the kids enjoying it."
If The Team Has Moved On Since The Last Game At Marshall:
"They've moved on from the Marshall and I don't bring it up all. I don't need to. They're smart and know that they could've played better and Marshall played well. We don't use that game as motivation or anything. We just want to make sure we play well for our seniors and play our best game this last game."
On Both Ohio And East Carolina Having A Large Amount Of Senior Leadership:
"They've been through a lot of wars. We have guys who have been through the games, ups and downs, success and tough times. It comes down to execution and technique. You're not going to be able to intimidate the other team or do something they haven't seen. It's about one guy playing with a better technique than the other guy. We have to make sure we execute well, do our jobs well, play extremely hard like they will and believe in what you've been coached to do, and do it."