After a disappointing bowl loss Coach Ruffin McNeill announced that Defensive Coordinator Brian Mitchell will not be returning next season as his contract will not be renewed.
This announcement may not come as a surprise to Pirate fans after the team suffered a 43-34 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Dec 22. During that game the Pirate defense allowed ULL to get an early 21 point lead in the first half and it seemed as though the play calling could have been the cause; not helping to cool the "hot seat" Mitchell was already sitting on.
Mitchell started his career as an assistant at his alma mater Bringham Young. After eleven years at BYU, Mitchell went on to Texas Tech to become the cornerbacks coach; a role he maintained for four years. Jan. 25, 2010 Coach Mitchell joined the Pirate coaching staff at the defensive coordinator and secondary coach position.
Coach Ruffin McNeill showed nothing but class in response to the situation. "There's never a good time to make a coaching change, especially one that involves a friend and colleague who I respect professionally," McNeill said. "However, I have the responsibility and commitment to maintain the best interest for this program and East Carolina University."
By the numbers this move is a "no brainer" for the Pirates coaching staff. The defense this season has been allowing opponents to average 31.6 points/game while the offense has been putting up 31.5 points/game. It doesn't stop there; the Pirate defense under Coach Mitchell has also been allowing 155 yards per game on the ground and 275 yards through the air; both numbers which eclipse that of the offensive production.
This season was inexcusable for the defense, especially considering the amount of talent the Pirates have on that side of the ball with playmakers like Grove, Magazu, and Derrell Johnson. Defense wins championships, and if the Pirates plan on winning more games next season this move had to be made.
As far as a replacement goes, Coach Ruffin McNeill stated that the search will begin immediately. No possible replacements have been or will be named until the process of acquiring a new defensive coordinator has been completed.
The Pirate defense has had its ups and downs during coordinator Brian Mitchell's tenure; but the fact of the matter is in order to win games a team has to score more than their opponents. As simple as it sounds, the Pirates this season actually averaged giving up .1 points more to opponents than they scored. Hopefully, this coaching change will give the Pirates a chance to strengthen their defensive play calling and ultimately win more games next season. I've had the privilege of interviewing Coach Mitchell on many occasions; he's a standup guy who I have a lot of respect for and I send my best regards to him and his family as he searches for a new coaching position.