Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill Discusses The Upcoming Virginia Tech Game
GREENVILLE, NC September 9, 2013 – Fourth-year East Carolina Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill addressed members of the media Monday prior to this week’s game against Virginia Tech. The following are selected comments:
“It was a great team win. I knew we would be facing an athletic football team watching them and having recruited that area in Florida. We knew we would be facing an athletic team and they were. I was very proud of how we responded in a short week. To play any football game within a six-day span and respond like we did, I don’t think a lot of people realize what that took from our kids. I thought all three sides played with tremendous effort, which has always been expected, but it was good to see them come back again in that week and not have any excuses and play hard.
“I thought we established our run game. Lincoln [Riley] and his staff did a great job of formulating a game-plan and the kids did a great job of not becoming impatient and following what Lincoln wanted, especially up front. We knew FAU might come out with a sub-package with a minimum of five DB’s and they did, and we were able to run the football and get positive yardage. I still thought Shane [Carden] did a good job of throwing the ball when needed and made some timely completions and touchdown passes. The thing we will have to work on, and we talked about it, is ball security.
“The defense did a great job. I asked them to respond with great run-gap and pass-gap integrity, and I thought it was evident that we did that – up front especially with our defensive lineman and linebackers fitting properly. Our pass-rush lanes became so much better from game one to game two. Turnovers were huge. We had four. Football coaches count fourth down stops as takeaways because it gives the offense extra possessions. We talked about getting our offense extra possessions all during fall camp. On film, we saw the six sacks, nine tackles-for-loss and eight [quarterback] hurries. All of that fit into what we challenged the defense to do: stop the run and affect the quarterback. We really had a lot of fun, were very physical and did a good job defensively.
“Special teams made some timely plays, [including] the return by Lance [Ray], but some coverages got away from us and we ran past the returner a couple times, but we saw it on film but that can be corrected and it was last night.
“This week, we are facing an opponent who brought special teams to the forefront. Coach [Frank] Beamer, whom I’ve known for a while since his Murray State and Ohio Valley Conference days, brought the importance of special teams into the limelight, nationally. His program has always emphasized great special teams and I will say that is one of his trademarks. They call it “Beamer Ball” and that’s a great name for it. They have a great punter in A.J. Hughes, who is averaging 45-plus with a great hang-time. They have some really athletic returners in Demitri Knowles, Chris Mangus, Kyshoen Jarrett and Kendall Fuller. All of those guys have speed and do a good job of giving them return capabilities, so we have to do a great job on our coverage teams, as well as our return teams in making sure we give our offense and defense great field position.
“Defensively, Bud Foster is another person I’ve known. Bud’s reputation precedes him and it’s well deserved. He’s one of the best in this business and has been for a long time. His defensive units have his personality stamped on them. They’ve always had athleticism on defense and length in the secondary with rangy and fast DB’s. Up front, their defensive-line play is very quick, strong and disruptive. They have seven returning starters from last year’s team. It starts up front with Derrick Hopkins. He’s really a fine defensive lineman – inside player, very disruptive, great with his hands, great technique and a lot of explosion – so we have to be really good up front, especially inside with our interior line at both guards and center. Kyle Fuller is one of the top DB’s in the ACC. He’s a cover guy, but also a very good tackler. He understands the game. We have to do a good job of formulating a game plan against a team that will contend in the ACC.
“Offensively, we will be facing one of the top quarterbacks. Logan [Thomas] has been there for a while now and he has size and speed. He has really improved his overall game since he last started against us, even adjusting to a new offensive coordinator where they have more designed runs for Logan. He does a good job of being a general for their offense and orchestrating what they want. He’s really commanding under center. They rotate two running backs. J.C. Coleman started as true freshman last year and he’s a really good player, so we will have to keep him contained, and again, run-gap integrity will be of utmost importance. It seems to me that offensive line-wise, they recruit a lot of tight end and athletic guys, and then move them to offensive line, which means they have great feet and work very well as a unit. They might be one of the most athletic lines we will face. I watched them against Alabama, who has a top unit up front as well, and they did a good job of holding their own against them and last weekend against Western Carolina. David Wang, Andrew Miller and Caleb Farris are three guys that when you watch film really stand out. Demitri Knowles and D.J. Coles are receivers that we will have to keep corralled. D.J. was a tight end so he has size.
“It’s a great challenge for us. Our focus will be on making sure we get better as a football team. We focused on that last night and began with making sure we keep our strengths, our strengths and anything that was a weakness for us in our first two games, we made sure we corrected that and will attempt to not let anything beat us twice. The one thing I want to correct is our penalties. At the same time I don’t want to take away hesitation. There is a fine line there, that as a coach, I know you can over-emphasize something a little bit too much and the kids will begin to hesitate. A clear mind means fast legs to me, and a cloudy mind means slow legs and our kids recognize that.”
On How Long The Team Will Be Without ILB’s Jeremy Grove and Kyle Tudor:
“They will get back quick. They’re pretty tough hombres. Those two guys will do everything we want rehab-wise. They’re tough, tough, tough football players and could play in any era. I’m looking forward to those guys getting back. Their leadership is very valuable and they have contributed already. It’s an opportunity for some other guys to get a chance, step up and carry the flag while we wait for those veterans to come back. You can’t replace the experience and the battles those guys have gone through, but at the same time, I have a lot of confidence in Coach [John] Wiley and his teaching and coaching with his group.”
ECU PIRATES FOOTBALL TICKETS
On The Challenges For Freshman Linebacker Devaris Brunson:
“He’s been going against our first-team offense. We had a plan not to even redshirt him, so we gave him quality reps and exposed him to the package. We don’t let guys sit around because they’re redshirted or not playing. Those guys get reps and show each side of the ball great looks. I feel good about him coming in and being able to adjust. He’s a smart football player, smart kid and a hard worker.”
On The Importance of Showing That East Carolina Can Compete Against A Team Like Virginia Tech:
“We have three ACC teams on our schedule, but for us, what I told our team is to worry about what we can control. I want to play to get better this week. We want to win each game we play. There is no such thing as an ugly win. I want to make sure we keep developing. I’m looking forward to playing against a really great program and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
If Coach McNeil Feels Good About The Team’s Progress From Game One To Game Two:
“Our biggest game was the Old Dominion game. I was proud of the way we approached that game to be honest. In the second game, were able to establish the run. The beauty of both of those games was that the team didn’t panic and stayed with the game plan. I thought we made a big jump from game one to game two. One thing that really pleases me about this team is the team chemistry on the sideline. They look forward to the challenges and getting better. I’m looking forward to seeing how we attack tomorrow. Tuesday is a work day.”
On Missed Tackles In The First Two Games and How The Team Is Preparing For Logan Thomas:
“What you can’t simulate in practice is the speed of the game, no matter who it’s against. I thought we tackled better and that is something we work on it every day. I don’t watch much of the NFL, but I watched some and they were still messing up there and they’re pretty good at it, too. We’ll keep working on it and we’ll get better at it.”
On The Difficulty Of Preparing For Virginia Tech After Playing Alabama and Western Carolina:
“The one thing you can watch is personnel. That’s the first thing I watch, and then I go back and watch how they are different from last year. They did a good job of rising up and bouncing back from the Alabama game. They will be ready and so will we.”
On The Biggest Difference In Virginia Tech’s Offense With Their New Offensive Coordinator:
“They involve some of the Auburn stuff with quarterback-designed runs, but with Logan’s development, he can throw it and he has some nice weapons to go to. They do a good job of blending in and having what I call `sister plays off of one play from another’ or `partner plays off of one play to another.’ They look like one thing but do another.”
On The Advantages Of Having A Longer Week In Between Games:
“We gave the kids Friday and Saturday off and got together like we normally do on Sunday. I thought that was good for them and they bounced around pretty well last night. It’s a normal week for us. I think the biggest thing is making sure we don’t cloud their minds. We want to be able to play fast this week and we have to.”