Coaches Corner: Rick Smith

Inside ECU Sports caught up with Rick Smith to discuss East Carolina's defensive performance against North Carolina State and what the Pirates are looking for from Rakeem Cato and Marshall's offense.

Q: What stands out about Marshall's offense?

A: What stands out is they have really good, skilled wide receivers, but the quarterback's what makes them go. He does a great job scrambling. When he gets out of the pocket, he makes more plays scrambling outside the pocket than he does just dropping back. He's averaging over 275 yards a game. He's completing over 60 percent of his passes. He has 32 touchdowns. He's the real deal. That Shuler kid, the wide receiver that went to the same high school as him, has 80 catches!

Q: Talk about the tight end Gator Hoskins. He's one of the better tight ends you've faced. How do you defend against him?

A: Their tight end is kind of like a wide receiver. They flex him out. Like a 10 personnel. They put him everywhere. He'll be into the boundary as a wide receiver. He'll also line up as a tight end. A lot of people don't realize it, but they run the football as good as they throw it. They create problems for you on play action stuff.

Q: How much does it help to practice against such a similar offense?

A: It helps a whole lot. Now, the running plays are a little different. Our guys don't run zone reads very much like they do. And they've got some sophisticated plays. They run the sweep where they pull the guard in the center. They run the power where they pull the backside guard and double down on the three technique.

So they have about five basic runs that they run quite a bit. They can run it out of the two-by-two stuff or when the tight end's attached. So they give you some problems there with the run.

Q: No turnovers were forced against N.C. State. How important is forcing turnovers against Marshall on Friday?

A: Turnovers are important in every game. We keep turnovers a little different than the national turnovers. We count a fourth-down stop as a turnover. We got two of those. We got two of those. They went for it five times on fourth down and we stopped them twice. We tell our kids a three-and-out, if you get three three-and-outs, that's like field position for our offense. So that's like a turnover.

As far as the interceptions and fumbles, we got to create those and we're not. The last two weeks, the well's been kind of dry. Well, the last week. Sometimes they come in bunches. It would be great to get a couple this week against them because usually if you get three turnovers, you win.

Q: With a guy like Rakeem Cato who can take off and run, how important is it to be disciplined when you go after him?

A: He makes more plays rolling to his right and left than he does when you keep him in the pocket. Usually, if everything's covered and you keep him contained, he's going to tuck and run. But, when he's running out to the left and to the right, he makes plays. The receivers do as good a job as I've ever seen when the quarterback scrambles at adjusting the routes. They got a big play last week against FIU with him scrambling and the receivers work their routes. They got one against Tulsa. They do a great job. We worked on that [Monday]—trying to keep our rush lanes so we can keep him in the middle. We got a few other things, too.

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