Coaches Corner: Rick Smith

Michael Prunka caught up with East Carolina defensive coordinator Rick Smith Sunday night to talk about the team's 63-14 win over UAB and upcoming showdown versus North Carolina State.

Q: What are your thoughts on how the seniors performed on Saturday?

A: They played great. Kyle Tudor played great. [Damon] Magazu played very well. Adonis [Armstrong] played good. [Lee] Pegues played great. [Derrell Johnson] played great. They all really performed well. There was nine of them out there on the starting defense. We're going to have to rebuild!

Q: Going 8-17 on third down isn't bad, but it seemed like UAB was taking advantage of quite a few third-and-short situations. What can be done to minimize that against NC State?

A: We played well on third-and-long. Third-and-short is what got us. We didn't make our goal. We made our goal on third-and-long. We made our goal on third-and-medium. Third-and-short, we were only 1-4. We had a chance on the last drive. We went boss on the last drive. The nickel back played zone instead of playing man. That was third-and-12.

Then the next third down, we got everyone dropped and the outside linebacker, his guy escaped him. On that last drive, we had two third downs. That one was third-and-one.

Q: Following suit with the rest of the season, turnovers were a big factor against UAB. What role do you see turnovers playing against NC State?

A: All the stats, in NFL and college football, the team that gets the most turnovers usually wins, with one exception the other night at Tulsa. The way I talk to our kids about turnovers, we want to get at least three a game.

Average game, you know the offense gets, let's say, 12 series. But, if we get three [turnovers], the other team has three less chances to score and we just gave our team three more, which gives us 12. With 12 chances versus nine, we should win. That's what turnovers do—they give your offense more chances to score.

Q: What's your assessment on how the secondary performed against UAB?

A: For what we ask them to do, I thought they performed extremely well. The first touchdown, the long one, there was a 40-yard completion. The corner was hung, he was all by himself. He had no help because we were trying to stop the run. He was in great shape. He did everything exactly right and the kid made a great catch. He did nothing wrong, he just didn't finish the play. And then he was called for pass interference. I thought that was—I'm not supposed to say that—but I don't think it was a good call.

But I thought they played well. I told Adonis, "Adonis, we're going to have to rob from the secondary to stop the run." Sometimes with certain defenses, you're going to be all by yourself. He played great. We gave up one deep ball.

I was pleased with them. I thought that we executed what we tried to do extremely well. They ran 22 personnel. We had a game plan for that. 13 personnel: a game plan for that. 10 personnel: a game plan for that. We didn't know what game plan we were going to get because, the games we looked at, one week they're doing this and the next week they're doing that. I think, because of the turnovers, we kind of got them out of their game plan a little bit and they tried to throw the ball a little more than run it.

Q: How have you been preparing for NC State?

A: On Sunday night, we basically work on third down. You come in Sunday and you look at the grading. You grade them on your own. Now, that was 71 plays and I have to grade four players or sometimes five. It takes me three and a half hours to grade it. When we get through grading the film, then we look at it as a staff and we talk about what we did right and what we did wrong.

By now, it's two o'clock. At two o'clock, we look at NC State's third downs. Four o'clock: we meet with the head coach. Five o'clock: we do cards for them. So, all we've looked at is third downs. [Monday] we'll spend all day on NC State.

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