Coaches Corner: Q&A

Inside ECU Sports talked to East Carolina's coordinators after Sunday night's practice as the Pirates prepare to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels.

--- Head coach Ruffin McNeill ---

Q: Georgia Tech's run game had a lot of success against UNC. Have you been working on anything that would give ECU's run game a similar presence?

A: Not what Georgia Tech does. They're a wishbone team. We're not.

Q: What do you see from North Carolina?

A: They're fast. Athletic. Larry [Fedora] does a good job. Dan [Disch] does a good job on defense. They do a good job on all three sides of the ball. They really are attacking on special teams, too. It was a tough game at Georgia Tech. It was in the rain. I watched that one [Sunday]. I'll dive a little more in detail into it [Monday]. They have a really fast, NASCAR offense. Defensively, very athletic. Special teams, a lot of athletes, just like we are now able to do. They'll be well coached and ready to go, I'm sure.

Q: How do they compare to Virginia Tech?

A: Throwing the football, they'll spread you a little more than Virginia Tech did against us. Virginia Tech went, in the first game, against Alabama and spread the football a little more. They got back to the basics against Western [Carolina]. Then against us went back to basic. Carolina will still spread the football, still have a run game. They'll be NASCAR. Same with what Larry did at Southern Miss before he got to UNC. Defensively, just like last year, they'll play with five [defensive backs] and adjust it. Special teams always, they'll try to lull to sleep and they'll do a good job of it, too.

--- Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley ---

Q: How do you see the rest factor from the bye week playing into the game on Saturday?

A: It helps. There's no question it helps. We had some guys banged up. Virginia Tech was a physical game for both sides. I think you saw that on Saturday from Virginia Tech. It was a slugfest. We certainly took advantage of getting a couple of those guys healthy and getting some fresh legs out there. You could see that [Sunday night] that we're starting to get some pop back in our legs.

Q: How do you plan to maintain offensive tempo not only on the road, but against such a big in-state rival?

A: Just do what you do best. We've got to do a great job of doing the little things better this week. That was something that, not after our first drive, but not the entire time. We did not do a great job of doing the little things well. When you play good opponents, they can make those little things show up as big things. It was a great lesson for our guys and we stressed that hard and we know they'll respond.

Q: What work have you put into the running game? Georgia Tech's running game had a lot of success against UNC.

A: Georgia Tech is going to. They run it just about every snap. Just like how our passing yards, at times, are going to be inflated. I think we know we have to establish a run. We've got a veteran front. We've got some backs that we really believe in. We did a good job of getting it established against Virginia Tech early and now we've got to sustain that. That was something this group was really well last year. We did it late in games. You saw our running game really take over some games late. We were able to finish some people off that way. We've got to get back in that mode of establishing it early and we've got to be able to sustain it throughout the game and be able to use it as a knockout at the end of the game.

Q: What have you seen on tape of UNC's pass coverage?

A: It's good. They're athletic. They do a good job mixing up coverage. They've got some guys that can really run around in the back end. They've got the Boston kid that seems like he's been there for forever. He's a very good player. Both their corners are back. Like I said, they're primarily a zone coverage team, but they'll get in some man as well. It'll be a great test for our receivers and quarterbacks.

Q: If you had to pick one thing, what would be the one key for beating UNC?

A: Do the little things well. Make the corrections from last week. If we do that, I feel good about our chances.

--- Defensive coordinator Rick Smith ---

Q: Any updates on the injury front?

A: We got Terrell Richardson back tonight. He was our third-team strong safety. He was back tonight and practiced. I believe he was the only one for sure. Josh Hawkins will practice Tuesday, so he should be fine for the game Saturday.

Q: Georgia Tech's run defense was key in them beating UNC. What are your plans for stopping the Tar Heels on the run?

A: You got to beat the blocker you line up on and know what gap to secure and run to the ball like a crazy man. Any time you're on defense, everyone has gap responsibility. If everybody plays their gap…Of course, we tell them every game is like a boxing match. Like two heavyweights punching it out. You got to kick the guy's butt that you line up on. You're not going to do that every time, but usually the guy that gets the first punch wins the fight. We try to tell our kids that it's like a heavyweight fight. It's two heavyweights going at it. He may knock you down, but you may knock him down. You got to get up and keep hitting him. Sooner or later, he'll give in in the fourth quarter. Now, if we have people that aren't in their gap and they don't kick the guy's butt that they line up on, we aren't going to win the game!

Q: What have you seen from UNC's passing game?

A: I think [Bryn Renner] is really special. He made a couple of throws against Georgia Tech. He scrambled—I think it was the first touchdown—and the guy was pretty well covered. He's running to his left, squared his shoulders up and threw it. He's a pretty good passer. He might be as good as we're going to see. Their receivers are very good, very athletic. [Eric] Ebron, he's special. I recruited him when I was here before. He was at Ben Smith High School in Greensboro. I just recruited him a little bit before they offered him when he went to the camp. He's the real deal. He's going to be hard to stop.

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