Ruffin McNeill Press Conference: SMU

GREENVILLE, N.C. — Fifth-year coach Ruffin McNeill met with the local media Monday in preparation of ECU's game with the SMU Mustangs Saturday.

Here is the complete transcription from head coach Ruffin McNeill’s press conference Monday.

Opening Statement:

“One of the things we do is divide the season into four quarters. We just finished the first quarter of our season, and now we enter the second, which began last week with the bye and this week against SMU. After the first quarter, you get the chance to sit back and you learn a lot about your team. In our schedule, we find out what our strengths and weakness are quickly.

“We approached the bye week (last week) as a chance to correct things on all three sides of the ball, get some guys that were nicked up and bruised closer to being healthy, and then got a lot of young guys some much needed reps. We did go good-on-good, first-on-first and best-on-best, but not as much. We tried to give those guys as much of a chance to recover as we could. We felt like there were some things we needed to do to get better on each side of the ball.

“I personally felt like we needed to cut down our penalties as a team. After the first quarter, I want to be a better team in the second quarter of eliminating penalties. There are three phases of penalties: administrative, technique and selfish. We didn’t have selfish penalties, but there are some administrative penalties – offsides and illegal procedures as examples. Technique penalties may have been holding or defensively, maybe a facemask.

“Offensively, the execution of our offense is always important. We felt like can improve upon that. Even after scoring 70 points (against North Carolina), we saw things we needed to do better with the guys up front, and also ball security. Defensively, understanding our gap integrity against the run and communicating are really important when we’re going up against “NASCAR” or hurry-up offenses.

“Special teams-wise, we’re playing a lot of young guys. They have a lot of speed and a lot of athleticism, but they’re young guys. With that, some mistakes may happen. We went back to fundamentals on all three sides of the ball, especially on special teams from stance, to footwork to our progression and they handled it well.

“The only people I didn’t get to thank after last week’s game were the Pirate Nation and that venue we had. We had so much reaction from seeing our second-to-none venue, so I can’t thank the Pirate Nation for the energy they brought.”

On SMU:

“I know Coach (June) Jones left. I’m not sure why, but I’d like to find out. I haven’t had the chance to talk to June, but he has always been special to me from his Hawai’i and the Fresno State days. He’s always been one to stand up and make sure voices were heard that might not be heard in certain venues. I’ve known Tom Mason and his staff a long time and they’re finding a way.

“I know they’ve had to play two top teams as well and we can’t forget that. Offensively, they’ve been going through some guys at the quarterback position, trying to find the right guy. Up front, they have two guys, Chauncey Briggs and Taylor Lasecki, who stand out on film. June’s teams always have great receivers in De’rikk Thompson and Darius Joseph. They’re going to spread the football with a lot of wide receiver sets.

“On defense, they still return six starters. This is a team that, a few years ago, made us understand that the front seven would be the key to having a chance to win the conference. The two teams that had the best front sevens represented both sides of the league. This team was one of the teams that taught us that we better make sure we have a front seven that can withstand the run and also apply pressure. They’ve played against two teams, Baylor and Texas A&M, which can move the ball really well.

“We have to do a great job this week of making sure we get back to what we do, believe in us and get better. We're not worried about Saturday yet. Last night, it was great to get back into a game-week mode, but the bye week came at the right time for us. It was needed and we took advantage of it, but we’re glad to be back.”

On Playing ECU’s First Game In The American Athletic Conference:

“It’s a historical moment for East Carolina University and our program. I know our fans will come out and support that. It’s a move that has been in the making for a lot of years. We know this is what it’s about here. This quarter here is all we look at, but we know the rest of our season is focused on the American Conference. This is why we’re in it. The first quarter was good, but this one will be even more vital. In those rooms during the spring and at media day, you look around and see a lot of good ball coaches. You see some guys who have been around a long time like June (Jones), George O’Leary, Tommy Tuberville, C.J. Johnson, who won a national championship at Miami and a Super Bowl in New Orleans, Bob Diaco, Matt Rhule and all those coaches. It’s going to be a challenge and we look forward to it.”

On If He Was Surprised After Seeing June Jones Step Down After Two Games:

“Yeah, I was. June’s a good man and a good ball coach. I’ve only known June in the coaching circuit. June was always, like Coach Spurrier and Coach Beamer, a guy who had accomplished so much, but still had time to speak to me. He never thought it was too much of his time.”

On How He Gets The Fans And Players Excited About Playing SMU:

“We’ll get the players right. You (the media) can help me get the fans ready. I know they’ll show up in groves. We’ve talked about our venue being second-to-none and that’s week-in and week-out. We have four home games left, and it needs to full. I expect us to be in full-blast mode like it was last Saturday. I think there’s a commitment to that and the fans will step up to that.”

On Which Quarterback He Expects SMU To Play:

“Garrett Krstich is the one we expect to see. He’s started before, but we’ll prepare for what they do. We’ve faced everything from mobile quarterbacks to dual-threat quarterbacks, so we’ll have a game plan to defend against both.”

On What He Thinks About The National Attention ECU Has Received Lately:

“I’m honored because it gives the nation the chance to see our players, and of course, our university. Not just for the football part, but the entire university. We have all of the great academic disciplines from a medical school to an educational school to business. Also, it’s a chance for Greenville, North Carolina to be on a national stage. It’s recognition they’ve earned and deserve.”

If The Team Will Rely On Senior Leadership Against SMU:

“Our leadership core is not made up just seniors. There are some sophomores like Isaiah Jones and Davon Grayson. Zeek Bigger is a junior and he’s on there. I can go on and on. Breon (Allen) and Chris Hairston are on there. There are a lot of guys on that leadership council. You like to see that in each class. I will rely on all of them, but it starts with me and the coaches.”

On If The Running Back-By-Committee Has Helped Create Some Of The Big Individual Performances:

“I know it has. Knowing that the guy behind you can play and perform just as well as you, it will push you. What helps is playing as a team, being committed and playing for one another. There’s no jealousy there. It’s more about competition. We want to develop competitive depth. The old way of having one guy tote the ball 40 times a game are gone. They can’t do it because the body can’t take it. The more guys you have, the better. Each guy presents a different skill-set. Marquez Grayson has one, Anthony Scott has another, Chris Hairston is another slasher, and then Breon (Allen). We have a good group at that position.”

On How He Feels About the 12 Noon Kickoff Time:

“It doesn’t really matter. I’ve never been asked about playing late at night. After a while, you’ve done it so much, but to be jockeying around for TV spots is a privilege. Twelve o’clock noon is a great time to start.”

On Having Former Coach Pat Dye In Town For the UNC Game:

“I had a great time with Coach Dye. It was emotional, personal, affirming and reaffirming. Having him and my dad in the same place at the same time – that had not happened since 1979. I hope we can have Coach back (soon). I’d like to.”

On The Excitement Of Homecoming Weekend:

“I’ve never attended a homecoming game because I’ve been on the sidelines coaching. We’ll have about 30 (people) at our house and it will be like a Viking feast. It’s great to get all of the alums and Pirates back. I know a lot of my teammates are coming back and they’ve contacted me already. It’s going to be great to see it packed with all the festivities around, but we have to make sure we do a great job preparing this week so we can have success on Saturday.”

On Students Already Lining Up For Tickets To The SMU Game:

“That’s awesome. I know we have the largest student section “booster club” in the country, and it’s right at 10,000. That’s the Pirate State of Mind (PSOM). I’ll be glad to see them in The Boneyard.”

--------- Injury Report (for entire spring session) ---------

OUT – ILB Devaris Brunson (right knee),

PROBABLE: WR Jimmy Williams (right ankle)

LONG-TERM: WR DaQuan Barnes (back), ILB Desi Brown (left lower leg), OLB Kirk Donaldson (right knee), TE Darren Dowdell (left leg), OL Christian Matau (left knee)

---------- Depth Chart --------------

OFFENSE:

Outside Wide Reciever (X): Cam Worthy (Reserves: Trevon Brown)

Inside Wide Receiver (H): Isaiah Jones (Reserves: Cedric Thompson, Quay Johnson)

Left Tackle: Ike Harris (Reserves: Stewart Hinson)

Left Guard: Quincy McKinney (Reserves: Will Foxx)

Center: Taylor Hudson (Reserves: C.J. Struyk)

Right Guard: Tre Robertson OR J.T Boyd

Right Tackle: Dontae Levingston (Reserves: Brandon Smith)

Quarterback: Shane Carden (Reserves: Kurt Benkert)

Running Back: Breon Allen OR Chris Hairston (Reserves: Marquez Grayson)

Inside Wide Receiver: Justin Hardy (Reserves: Bryce Williams)

Outside Wide Receiver: Davon Grayson (Reserves: Jimmy Williams)

DEFENSE:

Defensive End: Johnathan White (Reserves: K’Hadree Hooker)

Nose Tackle: Chrishon Rose OR Terry Williams (Reserves: Demetri McGill)

Defensive End: Fred Presley (Reserves: Terry Biles)

Outside (SAM) Linebacker: Montese Overton (Reserves: Dayon Pratt, Pat Green)

Inside (MIKE) Linebacker: Zeek Bigger (Reserves: Cameron White)

Inside (BUCK) Linebacker: Brandon Williams (Reserves: Ray Tillman)

Outside (WILL) Linebacker: Maurice Falls (Reserves: Joe Allely, Jake Geary)

Field Cornerback: Josh Hawkins (Reserves: DaShaun Amos, Rocco Scarfone)

Strong Safety: Lamar Ivey (Reserves: Terrell Richardson)

Free Safety: Domonique Lennon (Reserves: Travon Simmons)

Boundary Cornerback: Detric Allen (Reserves: Dashawn Benton)

SPECIALISTS:

Placekicker: Warren Harvey (Reserves: Davis Plowman)

Holder: Worth Gregory (Reserves: Isaiah Jones)

Punter: Worth Gregory (Reserves: Davis Plowman)

Snapper: Charlie Coggins (Reserves: Colton Oliver)

Punt returner: Justin Hardy (Reserves: Trevon Brown)

Kickoff returner: Breon Allen (Reserves: Isaiah Jones)


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