Ruffin McNeill Press Conference: USF

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

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

Opening Statement:

“I thought it was a strong performance by our team. After the game, I felt the same way. It was a great win and great team win. I think the poise our team showed for the fifth week in a row of playing the next play was evident. We knew we were facing a team in SMU that would come ready to play. They played three nationally-ranked teams. We based our defensive thought process after facing Tom (Mason) here three years back. It was great to get our first American Conference win behind us.

“Neither Shane or I knew about his record going into the game, but what a tremendous feat. After the game, I’m sure he gave recognition to his teammates first because that’s who he is. There have been a lot of great quarterbacks in this program from David (Garrard) to Jeff (Blake) to all the guys in front, so Shane deserves the recognition.

“I thought, offensively, we did a good job again. We did a good job with explosive plays again and had 12. We were 6-for-6 in the red zone. We had eight yards per play and the guys showed a lot of maturity. Defensively, we go into the game to control the run and we did that. Most of their yards came on the quarterbacks scrambles late. I thought our third down percentage was great, but SMU did a good job converting on fourth down, five out of six. It’s hard to stop a fourth down, but we’ll keep working on that. We had 21 what we call ‘make-a-difference’ plays by our defense. On special teams, Warren Harvey had five touchbacks and Justin Hardy had 10 yards per (punt) return. We had 15 young guys step up on special teams.

“Against South Florida, we’re looking forward to another American Conference game. Willie Taggart is a really good football coach. He’ll have his team ready to go. We have to continue to do the same thing we’ve done each week.”

On When He Realized Shane Carden Would Be The Next Quarterback At East Carolina:

“When B.J. Simmons called us about him, B.J. knew what this offense needed. He knew how we were as coaches. Lincoln (Riley) was a student assistant at the time and B.J. was behind Kliff Kingsbury, so in this offense, you have to wait your turn. It was hard for B.J., because he was one of the best quarterbacks coming out of Texas high schools at the time. When he got his turn, he set NCAA records.

“B.J. worked with Shane in the summer, and he’s from Houston just like Shane. He has great parents, which was key. When he came in his first year, he had to work on his toolbox – getting his tools in his toolbox and working on his craft. His second year, he was trying to get the backup spot behind Dominique (Davis), but lost it to a senior and had to go back to the scout team. He played quarterback, fullback and tight end, but he was not a locker room lawyer. He was disappointed, but he went back to our scout team, embraced our team concept of ‘What can I do to make the team better?’

“In his third year, he battled for the starting job, got hurt in the spring, came back in the fall, battled and battled. Lincoln divided the reps equally, but we went with the guy who had more game experience. Shane was disappointed. He still didn’t become a locker room lawyer and waited for his opportunity. If he were not prepared mentally or physically when his opportunity came against South Carolina, he would have not been ready. His first pass, he threw a pick. Lincoln crawled and got after him, but he didn’t flinch. He came back out and ended up having a great game. He exudes and exemplifies what we want here.”

On What It Means To Have Wide Receiver Cam Worthy Back:

“We’ve had a lot of guys step up. Having Cam, we get another great athlete, great person and great kid back who has been a great team guy during his absence. It’s been tough on him, but it’s given us great looks. We missed him on the field and off the field.”

On Having Commissioner Mike Aresco At ECU For The Inaugural Conference Game:

“It was great to see him. Mike and my consultant, Donnie Duncan, have been friends for 30-plus years, so that relationship helps our relationship even more. He was happy to be a part of the atmosphere and I think he was the parade marshal. I thought that was a great move by our marketing department. I know he and his wife had a nice weekend in Greenville.”

On What Stands Out With USF’s Team:

“Willie’s teams are always going to be fundamentally sound. He’s putting his personality into his team. Offensively, they have the top running back in the league in rushing average. He really runs the ball well. They can line up, get toe-to-toe, pound you and also try to spread the ball a little bit. We’ll see some big sets. Defensively, you’ll see a multiple odd-front team who blitzes, stunts and blends coverages with man and zone on the back end, so we’ll have to be ready for that. Their special teams are solid. We’ll have to have a great week of practice.”

On What He’s Seeing From ECU’s Offense And What They’re Doing Well Right Now:

“I like the way they’re operating. I think Lincoln and his staff has done a good job of keeping it simple. Even though we’ve got guys who have been around, we can add some things, but making sure we can play fast, and execution, are the biggest things. They’re communicating well. I think up front, at the beginning of the season, what people thought would have been a weakness is beginning to become a strength for us.”

On If The Team Is Aware That They’ve Never Beaten USF:

“No, they don’t talk about that. We don’t talk about the past because it’s irrelevant. We can’t control what happened in the past. We talk about ourselves and what we have to do to get better. We know we’re facing a team that’s very good, but bringing up what happened in the past really doesn’t help us now.”

On If Other Top Teams Struggles In The Country Last Weekend Reinforces What He Tells The Team:

“If we coached that way five years ago, it would have been artificial-superficial. Our foundation isn’t built on rankings. We base it on the defining of our program and our team. We want to win by one point and get out of there. Wins are hard to come by. Trust me, I cherish every single one. I hope everyone feels the same way. There’s no such thing as an ugly win. Ugly is in the dictionary and win is in there, but ugly win is not in there for me. Our kids understand that, too.

On If The Team Sees The No. 19 National Ranking:

“It’s not brought up by us or our coaches and I mean that. At the end of the year, we want to be playing our best football. What’s brought up is how we stay focused on making the team better. Fortunately, we have a group of kids that believe that.

On How Other Teams React To Playing East Carolina As A Ranked Team:

“That’s uncontrollable. I know Willie is a good coach and will get his team ready, but I can’t control that and I can’t coach that team. We have to make sure we do a good job of having a plan for them. I learned a long time ago that if I can control what we do, we’d be all right.”

On What The Team Has Done To Defend The Run This Season:

“It starts up front with gap integrity. We try to control the run as much as possible. We’re facing a team that prides itself on running the ball, so it’s going to be a game of will. Those guys need to have a great job of maintaining their gaps. The linebackers are what we call wall-builders. Wherever the hole in the wall is, it’s the linebackers’ job to plug his hand in that hole and keep that gap sound. We involve our safeties where need be to help fill those holes. It will be a big-boy pads day with a lot of collisions going on.”

On If He’s Been Surprised By The Play Of The Offensive Line This Season:

Brandon Jones is the key to that. He was not just a good offensive lineman, but also an All-Big 12 offensive lineman. The moment he finished, he wanted to coach. I think he did a good job all summer of understanding what we lost and what needed to be replaced. The kids were very coachable. The old guys like Taylor (Hudson), Ike (Harris), J.T. (Boyd) and Tre (Robertson) made Dontae (Levingston) and Quincy (McKinney) comfortable.”

On Wide Receiver Jimmy Williams’ Status:

“I’m looking forward to getting him back. I don’t play kids if they’re hurt. I love football, but I care about the kid more. If he’s not ready to go, I won’t play him. It’s about what’s in the best interest of the kid. He worked well last week and Jake (Moore) said he’s been unbelievable in rehab. I’m anxious to see where he is after today, but we’ll be smart with him. He’s a guy that can make plays, but because I love him more than this game, he won’t play until he’s healthy.”

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

OUT – ILB Devaris Brunson (right knee), DE Demage Bailey (right knee),

PROBABLE- WR Jimmy Williams (left 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 OR 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: J.T Boyd (Reserves: Tre Robertson)

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: Terry Williams (Reserves: Demetri McGill)

Defensive End: Chrishon Rose (Reserves: Fred Presley OR 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 and Colton Oliver)

Punt returner: Justin Hardy (Reserves: Trevon Brown)

Kickoff returner: Trevon Brown (Reserves: Breon Allen OR Quay Johnson)


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