Ruffin McNeill PC: UConn

GREENVILLE, N.C. – Fifth-year ECU coach Ruffin McNeill met with the media Monday ahead of the Pirates' matchup with the Connecticut Huskies Thursday.

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

Opening Statement:

“The open week was good for us. It was a good break. We got the chance to (take care) of guys with nicks and bruises, keep the majority of our older repetition guys sharp and then get the guys we’re counting on in backup roles some extra reps, so it was perfect timing for us for that.

”The Robesonian, my hometown newspaper, did an article called “All In The Family” by Scott Schlaufman. He’s a new writer down in my hometown of Lumberton, and it defines our team, what we want and what we’re trying to build here. It’s about family, it’s based on family values and dedication to that family. I’ve been asked in a lot of interviews about how we’re building, and that story tells it well and what we believe in. The family environment was one thing that we wanted to establish that I feel comfortable with – not the CEO approach. When they (recruits) come up here, I promise their parents because that’s how I was raised by Coach (Pat) Dye, that I will be their dad and the coaches will be their uncles.

“During the open week, we have a lot of guys I call pros like Shane (Carden) and Justin (Hardy) and those guys. They really approach each day like that and take it seriously. They understand what we’re trying to do, and we have a team full of those guys. The family environment fosters that. You can tell all about our team during the bye week because it is a change, and with the game being on Thursday, we changed our game week. This will be one of the last times we have a normal seven-day split. We’re moving into the third quarter of our season, as I’ve mentioned before that we divide our season into four quarters. We’ve been through two and we’re beginning the third this week with the University of Connecticut and Bob Diaco’s team.

“During the open week, they (the players) really approached it with a professional-type mentality, even with the change, but we presented that to them during fall camp about how we were going to do that. I’m very proud of my sons, and that’s how I spent my birthday with them.”

On If He Likes The Schedule With The Thursday Games and Off Weeks In Between:

“I don’t mind them. When the season began, Brian Overton and I sat down and looked at the schedule. Alex Folken, one of our guys who worked his way into our administration, does a really great job. He said, ‘Coach, wen have 15 weeks in our season schedule, we have seven non-traditional weeks where we’re not playing on Saturday.’ I like playing on Saturdays, but as we discussed in our meetings with Commissioner Aresco and our coaches, Thursday and Friday games give our conference and our programs, and really our university and City of Greenville, a lot of coverage. The open weeks don’t bother us because we always take it from that approach and try to give our kids the best advantage to get rest and healed up. We don’t try to maintain, we try to gain strength with Coach Connors, who is the best in the country at that. I always look at the glass is half full. I never look at it as a bad thing. The latter part of the season is where we’ll play three games in 13 days, so we understood that back when the schedule came out and that’s why the open weeks are welcome to us.”

On How A Win Would Clinch Bowl Eligibility And What That Means To Him And The Team:

“We don’t approach it like that, but to become bowl eligible is a thing that you shoot for since I’ve been a college coach. To coach when it’s cold weather, and you’re coaching when it’s snowing or raining, you’ve had a pretty good year. To become bowl eligible is great for our players, our staff and our staff’s families, wives and fans. We travel well. We had a great contingent at South Florida. (In) becoming bowl eligible, a lot of people are affected positively by it.”

If The Strong National Television Schedule Has Had A Positive Effect On Recruiting So Far:

“I have no doubt it does. I think the fact that recruits, but also the country, gets the chance to see our team, program and university, which brings light to Greenville and the eastern region. I think it benefits a lot of people. It’s free advertising as they say. To think about our team being on national TV and ESPN seven weeks in a row is a great feat and (helps) our players and their parents who can’t come to the games. Also, it shows off our university and second-to-none fan base, Pirate Nation. Because I’m from eastern North Carolina, this place raised me. Anything to help this region out is always beneficial for all those groups.”

On The “Black-Out” Theme To This Week’s Game:

“It’s not just about a “Black-Out” for us. We wanted to make sure it’s not a special deal. It’s a part of our uniform. The kids have been great because they’ve earned it and been through the system. Shane (Carden), Chrishon Rose and Deuce (Justin Hardy), I give them input because they’ve earned it. I’ll wear things at practice some days to test them out and I think they can tell I try to influence them a little bit, but it doesn’t work too much. It’s a special night for our fans. I’m excited to see the stadium. I know Joey has something special going on the field, but I don’t want to see it until game day. I know it will be a great venue. The team is expecting a large, packed stadium. I expect our fans to be in early and give us a lot of energy and excitement. Their team, our kids and my sons are expecting them to be packed and really excited on Thursday.”

On If Extra Attention Was Paid To Reducing Penalties Since The Last Game at USF:

“Yeah, we talked about it. There are three sets of penalties: Administrative, which are alignment, illegal procedure and those kinds of things. Holding or what we call them “Technique” penalties, and then selfish penalties, which are not tolerated. We haven’t changed our coaching technique or anything like that. We’ve done it the same way since we’ve been here. We want guys to understand each phase of it. We pride ourselves on being penalty-free. We require discipline off the field, such as classroom discipline. We expect it to carry over onto the field, too.”

On The Importance Of The “Play The Next Play” Mentality He Preaches:

“It’s good because we’ve preached it from day one. We’ve been talking about making plays, doing your job, making routine plays and playing the next play since the beginning. The things we talk about carry over and correlate to life. There are good days and bad days. Being able to play the next play goes back to the commitment to the team and focusing on the vision. Each day, we talk about how we want every play to be their best play. Last week, I didn’t do a good job of playing the next play in the first half, and I told the team and staff that quickly at halftime. They helped me learn. It’s been vital for us because we can control that.”

n How He Recruits The Types Of Players That Buy Into The Program:

“It’s hard. Some of them have to be shaped. I look for people with a story and who have gone through some things. That’s very important to me because if they’ve gone through adversity, they won’t flinch when it’s not going well. They’ll dig a little deeper. When you look at our team like Shane (Carden) or Messiah (Rice), who is going to be a great player here, too, every player on our team – coaches included – we hire people with stories. When we go recruit a player, Alex (Folken) and Donnie (Kirkpatrick) will put the film in my room. Good. Talent. Next thing, before grades or anything else, I check to see if he’s a good person. How do I do that? Well, the coach, secretaries, cafeteria workers, janitors in the school. When I get out and go see a player, I’ll stop a student and ask if they know the player. The other way is our kids (current players) when I bring them (recruits) on campus. I’ve turned down and rescinded scholarships after going to see a kid. I’ve done it here and I did it at Texas Tech. When they come here, I’ll have (players) call me. I’ve had kids call and I ask them how things went. They’ve called in and said, ‘He does not fit in well here, Coach.’ They tell me, and I trust them enough that I’ll take offers back. That’s how strongly I feel about getting the right people here.

“It happened at Texas Tech. I had 45 kids on defense, and I had two guys who I really spent more time putting out fires with. I don’t know if I’ve ever told anybody this story. They were great players, defensive linemen, big and could run. Erlene and I were on vacation in Jamaica. It was my first time overseas. I had a passport and we saved up for years to go. We never had a honeymoon. I took a day and accepted a job at Austin Peay the day after we got married. We (lived in a place where) I could touch the kitchen from our living room. So, (I was in Jamaica) and one of our counselors kept calling me on my phone about these two guys, and for seven days, it didn’t become a vacation. I cheated Erlene out of that. I’ll never forget that. And when I got back, I told those two guys to leave. At first, I was a little worried because we were supposed to have a good team. We had Graham (Harrell) and (Michael) Crabtree coming back and were ranked No. 2 in the nation. The other 43 that I was cheating, it picked up. We became a better defense after we let those two guys go. I learned my lesson. We try to avoid distractions as much as possible.

“Kirk Doll and I went to visit Alabama and Coach (Nick) Saban. Nick and I knew each other from recruiting when he was at LSU. It was just us in the room and he was getting ready to go on a trip and his secretary was trying to rush him, and he said, ‘Are you driving the car to not get a ticket, or are you driving the car with your family in it? Are you driving the car not to get a ticket, or are you driving the car to protect the passengers?’ He knew how I coached, and I told him we drive to protect the passengers.

“So, we have the passengers in our car here, and we want to expose them to as many personal development stories as we can because they’re kids. We’ve been strict on discipline consistently, and that won’t ever change, but there is also room for education.

“I spoke with Nick again earlier this year, and he said that when you remove a kid from a team, very rarely does that kid end up overcoming that, but it’s a privilege for them to play here. It’s a privilege for me to coach here. It’s not my right.”

On If There Has Been A Heavier Focus On The Character Of Players With NFL Hopes This Year:

“There is. I talk to them all the time. The first people NFL scouts talk to when they come here are Jake (Moore), our athletic trainer, Coach Connors, Brian (Overton) and me. I let them out on the field during practices and I’ve been more open with them and disappointed with how they don’t draft our kids. I’m still getting over that. All I know is that during my first four years, a Pirate has been on the Super Bowl team that won. I expect them to look at our kids hard because we do require them to do the right thing. They do work hard. Coach Connors leaves no doubt for that and it’s non-negotiable here. A lot is going into that. We invest a lot of money into them when you think about flights, hotels and all of that when we go to recruit a player. We get six weeks. When I go out, I get one time, which I hate about this job. I like to see kids more than once. A lot of money goes into recruiting at our level, and even more goes into it at the next level.”

On UConn:

“They’re going to run the football. Bob (Diaco) and I coached against each other when he was at Virginia along with Anthony Poindexter, their defensive coordinator. I’ve know those guys a while. Anthony is a very good coach and was a very good player. I would like to recruit him if he could play again. They run the ball and have a pro-style offense. Defensively, they’ll be an odd-front like us – multiple fronts with stunts, coverage changes and blends. On special teams, they’re very solid and well-coached. We’ll have to be sound in each area. Bob is like Willie (Taggart) – he’s establishing his personality within his team.”

On East Carolina’s Third Down Success On Offense This Season:

“Defensively, we’ve been good, too. There has been a lot of emphasis on that the last two games we’ve played. I think it’s big on both sides of the ball. We talk about it during fall camp. You like to get it in workable downs if possible. It’s hard to get third-and-a-million. You have to be able to move the chains. How you move them, I don’t care, just move them via run or pass. On defense, getting off the field on third down is important. Getting our offense extra possessions is the whole key.”

On If The Time It Takes The Referees To Spot The Ball Aggravates Him During Games:

“I really have made intentions felt when interviewed about that when they were trying to slow the game down. I’m a defensive guy, and I’m totally against slowing the game down. I’m a defensive guy standing up for this. I’ve played and coached defense all my life, nothing else. As a defensive coordinator, you need to prepare yourself. If you sub, I understand that, but I expect the tempo of the game to be there. It’s our job to slow it down when we have to. I’ve been out front and I won’t back down on that. You’ve got to have subs. My dad always told me that you have to rotate them. Oklahoma, on national TV, tattooed me with that. Sam Bradford and those guys got me, so I learned from that.”

--------- Injury Report ---------

OUT – ILB Devaris Brunson (right knee), DE Demage Bailey (right knee), DB Cody Purdie (right wrist)

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: 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 OR Brandon Bishop)

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 (Reserves: Colton Oliver)

Punt returner: Justin Hardy (Reserves: Trevon Brown)

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


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