Coaches Corner: Rick Smith

After East Carolina put on a dominant performance in Chapel Hill Saturday, Inside ECU Sports followed up with defensive coordinator Rick Smith to talk about UNC and preparation for Middle Tennessee State.

--- Defensive coordinator Rick Smith ---

Q: Of course, the defense gave up 31 points in the game, but they had a lot of key stops. Could you talk about that a little bit?

A: Well, I thought they played really good the first half. We've talked to them about…Basically on defense, you have to stop them 70 percent of the time. We had 13 series and we stopped them nine times out of 13. Well, if you stop them nine times out of 13, you give up 28 points. But, it's a little bit different on offense. That's just the way it is. You have to stop them a lot more on defense. We made that goal. We stopped them 70 percent of the time.

Now you take that reverse pass. That was a gift. Corner was atrocious. You take the…We were in three-deep zone on number 28. A gift. Take those 14 off the board. We were in third-and-nine and we were in a man-to-man coverage and the nickel went underneath for the interception and it went right through his hands. The guy catches it and we get two missed tackles. Gift. That would have been a field goal. That's 17 points. You take them off the board if the secondary does what it's supposed to do. I just tried to stress to them you don't know where those plays are going to be. You take those three plays away, I think we played extremely well.

I thought the defensive line did a great job. The d-line, the linebacker and even the secondary stopping the run. They were less than three yards a snap on the run. Of course, the sacks help. We did not give a run up over 15 yards. That's always a goal. You never want to give up a pass over 25. We gave up three passes for 126 yards. The reverse pass was 29, we missed a tackle for a two-yard gain that ended up being a 32. That was Derrel Johnson. Then we gave up the third-and-nine that was a 30-yard one. If we just do what we're supposed to do those three plays, now you take 126 yards off their stats and you take 17 points off the board. It was embarrassing. It would have been worse…Our offense did a great job.

I felt like, just being an old time coach, I've always felt like if you stop the run, you have a chance to win. We stopped the run. Our offense really controlled the clock and the game because they can run the ball. The difference in the game, I thought, was the offense keeping the drives alive by running the ball. As the defensive coordinator, I put myself in [the shoes of] the defensive coordinator from North Carolina—it's very difficult to stop the run and the pass. Our offense stayed ahead of the change so they could do what they hell they wanted. That was the difference in the ball game.

I was very pleased with the effort. The effort was good. We did not have a lot of MAs. I was very pleased with the secondary. We made 26 out of 28 tackles, so they tackled at 93 percent. Our goal is 85. I'm disappointed in the gifts I already mentioned. We just got to do better on those things.

Q: You're ranked fifth in the country in stopping the run. Was that your biggest emphasis coming in—being able to stop the run with the front seven you have?

A: I just feel like if you stop the run…It's what we did when I was here before. I remember they ripped us once for giving up 500 yards passing against Houston. They rushed for 60. We won the ball game. They carried the ball 70 something times. Well, if you divide 70 by two, that's 35. So really, it was two ball games. They threw the ball 35 times for 250 yards, nobody is going to say anything. If somebody throws the ball 74 times, they may have a chance to get 500 yards, but they aren't running the ball. That's just the way I am. I believe if you stop the run, you have a chance to win.

Q: Chip Thompson had a great game. Can you talk about him a little bit?

A: Chip played a fabulous game. He had eight tackles. He had a miss on the third-and-nine, which led to a touchdown, but he played. The great interception, tackled great, was everywhere he was supposed to be. He played great. I'm going to tell you: [Damon] Magazu played great, too. Those two graded out…The way we grade, they both graded out winners. With their bonus points for tackles and interceptions, they both graded out over 100. Chip had 24 bonus points. Adonis [Armstrong] played a perfect ball game. He had no minuses, Adonis Armstrong. Those three guys played as good as anybody I've ever had play. The other two corners did not play very well. I shouldn't say that. Detric Allen made some plays that I didn't think he would make. He played really good. He went to sleep on the reverse pass. He was soft one time on man coverage and they got a first down. He didn't do what he was supposed to do. But other than a couple of plays, he played really good and he'll start again this week. I'm just amazed at how much better they've all gotten. They're really listening and trying to do it the right way. I think before this thing's over with, we'll have a pretty good secondary.

Q: Without Terry Williams playing, who stepped up to fill the leadership role he left?

A: Well, we never talk about the ones we don't have. Like in recruiting: the guys you don't get, you don't worry about. You worry about the ones that are on campus. I haven't given Terry Williams a second thought. He made a mistake and, as far as I'm concerned, he's the scout team. I haven't lost any sleep over it. [Chrishon] Rose stepped up. He played great. We took the red shirt off of Demetri [McGill]. He played good. That's just the way football is. I don't want to say how I really feel about Terry. He let us down. He was selfish. Coach is punishing him for being selfish. When we get him back, he'll be third or fourth team. He'll have to prove himself to me, as defensive coordinator. I'll always ask myself "is he committed?" No. "Do I trust him?" No. "Did he get what he earned?" Yeah.

Q: What have you seen on tape from Middle Tennessee?

A: They have very good wide receivers. They are very fast. They are very quick. Their quarterback is a lot like the guy from Old Dominion. He's a hell of a quarterback. He delivers the ball on time. He's got good feet. He'll make you miss. He'll scramble. I think we got our hands full. Their offensive line is not as big as we've seen in the last two week, but they're very athletic. I think they're good on offense. We're going to have to be good on defense to slow them down. They throw the ball as good as anybody would think. Their quarterback is the real deal. I'm not sure of all the names of their wide receivers, but I'm impressed with three of them. They don't have a big tight end. They're in 10 personnel quite a bit: four wide receivers. I think they're really good on offense. They know what they're doing. I think Coach Stockstill's recruited well. What are they now, 3-1? They'll give us all we want. We just have to go in there and not make mistakes and play as hard as we can play and continue to tackle well.

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