Coaches Corner: Q&A

On the heels of a 52-38 win over Old Dominion, Inside ECU Sports talked to offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley and defensive coordinator Rick Smith about preparation for Thursday's game against Florida Atlantic.

--- Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley ---

Q: As East Carolina's offensive coordinator, you have to be pretty happy the team scored 52 points in Saturday's game. Overall, you saw what you got out of Shane Carden. You coached Graham Harrell at Texas Tech. Is that one of the greatest performances you've seen by a quarterback you've coached?

A: He played good. It was a good first game. No question. It was very efficient. You know, him, but you got to have guys catching it, you got to have guys protecting. It all works in unison. I'd probably think a little more about it from a team perspective. Offensively, it was one of the better first games that I've been a part of. But God, if you go back through the film, there's still tons of, boat loads of mistakes and we got to do so much better. But, we played hard, we competed. I don't think our intensity, our focus ever dropped. So I think that was a key to being able to put a few points up and staying consistent. But we're going to have to play a lot better and continue to make improvements.

Q: Describe what it's like to make an impact on a major Division I team as a true freshman, similar to the way Davon Grayson and Isaiah Jones did.

A: You know, it's getting easier. It depends what position you're playing. You know, lineman, quarterbacks. Some of those areas are a little bit tougher. With the way that seven on sevens have increased across the country and these kids have gotten exposure to more competition and better coaching, I think you're seeing. But, the hardest thing to gauge as a coach coming in—that's why you don't ever know who's going to play, it makes a little bit of a guessing game—is guys' mentality. Are they going to be able to handle the moment? Do they have the deer in the headlights look? Were they really ready to play? Are they mature? And those two guys certainly didn't back down. After being around them, we didn't expect that they would, but they're solid players now and they're just going to get better and better and, obviously, they have a bright future here.

Q: What are some of the things you've seen out of Florida Atlantic. How early did you guys dive into Florida Atlantic? As early as Saturday night?

A: Oh, June, you know. It's been a while. We get a jump on those guys, especially the one that we have the quick week coming right there in Week 2. We dive into those guys pretty hard throughout the summer and we dedicated several days in camp to getting ready for them. It's a huge game—first conference game for both teams. Coming off a short week, and this group has done that a few times, there are some things we've got to do better. There are some things we have to do better. Looking back at some of our off weeks in the past, schedule wise and execution wise. I think we'll be very prepared going into it. You've got to balance keeping them fresh with being prepared and ready to play.

Q: Did you go into Saturday night's game knowing you were going to pass the ball so often or is that something you just rolled with?

A: We never know. Just see how they play us and take what they give us. We got rolling with the throw game and they did a good job taking away our run game. That's one area we've got to do a better job of. But, that was part of their game plan, to make us run a little bit. That's what we try to build here is that people are going to give you something. As long as you get something in your offense that your guys can go execute on a routine basis, you've got to be able to take advantage of whatever they're giving you. They were doing that most of the night.

Q: Taylor Hudson was listed as the starter, but C.J. Struyk ended up playing the majority of the time. Why was that?

A: Just a game time decision. Both those guys have been playing well. It's been tough to separate them. They played well [Saturday] night. They both played quite a few snaps, they both were in there scoring drives, both were in there for key situations. It's a way to keep those guys fresh for a little bit. We've got two guys there that we felt good about. It's good to see them both play well. So, kind of create some depth and also keep in continuity because they've rolled this entire Spring and entire camp. There wasn't a lot of separation and we wanted to see how they handled it and they both handled it well.

--- Defensive coordinator Rick Smith ---

Q: What are some of the biggest changes you think need to be made going into Thursday's game?

A: Pass rush lanes. Containing the quarterback.

Q: How have you scouted FAU so far to do that?

A: We a preliminary scouting report during the summer on their, usually, last four or five games of the season. We look at the opponent they played. If they're similar to us, we do a scatter report on them. Plus, we've already broke the Miami game, so we're pretty much prepared for what they do.

Q: What are some of the in-game adjustments you had to make Saturday night?

A: Well the adjustments we tried to make [Saturday] was we wanted to try to get our outside rushers, our ends, to make sure that they kept the quarterback inside. And our inside rushers, we tried to get them to two gap. It helped some the second half. In the second half, we played a little bit more four down versus three down to help us in the pass rush.

Q: After watching the tape, how do you assess the secondary's performance on Saturday?

A: I was really pleased with the secondary. You take away three plays, they played extremely well. We had an (missed assignment) on the touchdown pass. The 40-yard touchdown pass, we did not get the free safety in the post. If he'd had been there, it might have still been a touchdown, but he should have been able to overlap that, so I was upset with that one. They ran a reverse pass for 30, which upset me. But overall, I thought Josh Hawkins played extremely well. Adonis Armstrong played very well. Michael Dobson only played our boss package and he was the nickel and he played extremely well. [Damon] Magazu had 12 solo tackles. He did a great job. I was very pleased with the secondary. Chip [Thompson] played well. Chip missed a tackle, didn't play the post early. We say he overthrew. Overall, I was very pleased with the secondary. I think if we'd had better pass rush lanes, the way the secondary played, it would have been a much closer ball game for us to win.

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