Ruffin McNeill Press Conference: Cincinnati

GREENVILLE, N.C. — Fifth-year ECU coach Ruffin McNeill previewed Cincinnati during his weekly press conference Monday.

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

Opening Statement:

“Donnie Duncan, a close friend, mentor and my consultant, lost his son on Friday, so we send the hearts of the Pirate Family and Pirate Nation to him. Our hearts are with him, Sally and Forth Worth right now. He means a lot to me.

“It was the fourth Saturday of the year that we’ve had off. I’ve mentioned how non-traditional it is. Coming off of a loss does make the off week a little tough. We have a team with a lot of pride and passion, but we approached it in an action-type way. We don’t talk about the problem, but about problem solving. This team and our staff went about our business that way.

“We have an opportunity this week to get back. We will face a really, really good Cincinnati football team. They’re very talented and a team that has been at the forefront in this league, along with Louisville. We know we’re facing a tough group that is well coached. Tommy (Tuberville) has been doing this a long time. It’s going to be another hostile road environment, so it’s a great test for our staff and players. We are going to have to play some of our best football of the year.

“We talked about a lot of things during this off week. One of the things was making sure we get back to what defines us, and that’s staying focused on the team, embracing your roles even harder, trying to find ways to make the program even better and focusing more on the vision, which is of course Thursday. Last night started the heavy days as far as practicing. We won’t deter from that focus. I look forward to getting around our players. They’re resilient. I’m honored to be around them and the staff. They’re action Pirates. They don’t sit around. They get involved and I was proud to see that.

“We had some problems like turnovers, but we addressed that. We had nine fumbles against Temple. The ball bounced a little differently for us. We’ve focused on that and we’ll continue to keep working harder on that this week. We brought officials out twice and we’ll bring them out again today. The players are doing a good job policing themselves and the coaches, as always, are on them. A lot of teams are having problems with penalties this year. The flags are being thrown more in our league than any other league in the country.

“Getting back to Cincinnati, they have a quarterback, Gunner Kiel, who transferred from Notre Dame. He has a quick release, good size and he’s mobile. Also, Munchie Legaux. I know Munchie from recruiting in New Orleans because we go after quarterbacks from all over. They have two quarterbacks, and both of them operate this offense with extreme confidence. The receivers are the first things that jump out at you on film. They are a lot like our guys. You see their height, range, speed and they attack the football.

“Rod Moore, the running back, is quick, has power and is good at changing direction. There is a freshman, Mike Boone, who is the leading rusher, but you’ll see them rotate just like everyone must do and have a committee. Shaq Washington and Chris Moore are the two receivers that stand out a lot. Up front, Eric Lefeld is an all-conference lineman and really good. He’s a senior who has been there a while and understands it.

Hank Hughes is their defensive coordinator. They’re an even front that mixes in stunts, movement, blitzes on the back end and they’re really good in the red zone. I think they’re ranked third in the league. They have very big and very active linebackers. When you cut on the film, certain positions jump out at you, and for them, the linebackers jumped out with this group. Up front, Terrell Hartsfield leads the league in sacks, so we’ll have to a good job protecting Shane (Carden) and giving us good running lanes. They’re very good on special teams. They do a good job of attacking with their coverage teams and they’re really physical. Their return team is really sound. We’ll have to do a really good job on all three sides of the ball.

“I’m proud of the way we’ve approached this week, and they’ve approached it the way I expected.”

On The Magnitude Of The Cincinnati Game Relative To The American Conference Championship Race: “This is a big game. Before we get to the game, we have to make sure we have a great week of practice. Cincinnati is tough, athletic and well coached. Just like the other games we’ve played, this is a very competitive league and we knew that before we came in. We’re looking forward to that challenge.”

On What Things ‘That Define The Team’ Were Discussed During The Bye Week:

“Embracing your role, whatever your role is. If it’s special teams and that’s your only role, embrace that role even more than you have been before. A lot of guys have been stepping up. ‘What can you do to make the team better?’ If you’re a scout team player representing and offensive lineman from Cincinnati, do the best you can for example. Me, what can I do as a coach to motive them, study film a lot better and get our strategy suggestions right. It’s about the team first, last and always. We had one of our most competitive, yet nervous practices for me. It was very physical. We went first team (offense) against first team (defense) a little longer than we normally do, and it was really competitive and physical.”

On Playing In The First Cold-Weather Game Of The Season:

“The last time we had a really cold week of practice was the week heading into the Military Bowl in Washington, D.C. We haven’t pulled out cold gear in a long time. We’re prepared for that. The wind and rain surprised us a little bit, but the other team played in the same weather. With the change of time, we’ve been able to get night practices in, so we’re looking forward to that challenge.”

On Officials Calling Holding Penalties:

“With the eighth official, what they watch for are holds. If the defender’s body gets outside of the body’s framework, that’s what they’re calling holding. How do you prevent that? Move your feet a little better and lower your pad level. Last week, I talked to Jim Mora at UCLA and Art (Briles) at Baylor, and they’ve been having a lot of holding calls against their teams as well. Penalties have almost quadrupled since 2013, so it’s not just here in Greenville. I’m not sure if it’s the high-paced teams or what. We’re making sure the kids are getting more repetitions because they more the get, the better they’re getting and that’s the approach we’ve taken.”

If He Has Had To Talk To Coaches About Teaching The Players To Prevent Penalties:

“I give my staff total autonomy. Yes, I am involved. The only thing I’m a stickler about are position drills, which are three or four maximum. Those drills are what make your position better. They have to do them every day because during the game when it gets tough, you rely on those tools in your toolbox. We’ve made adjustments, but we’ve continued to play hard with straining effort. I’ve watched the film looking for a lack of effort and there is none. They make mistakes, but lack of effort is not one of them. At the same time, we have to be smart so we don’t do things that beat ourselves or stop us.”

On Josh Hawkins’ Statement That Practicing Against ECU’s Offense Helps Prepare For An Offense Like Cincinnati’s:

“Yes, it does. They spread the football and their receivers attack the football like our receivers do. Both quarterbacks, Gunner and Munchie, can run and throw. They stretch it (the field) vertically with long throws and horizontally with screens, but they’ll also run the football. They have two very good running backs.”

On Breon Allen’s Confidence Since The Temple Game:

“He was disappointed. He cares about the team. These kids love playing football at East Carolina. I can identify with them because I was one of them. They get disappointed because they let their teammates down, but I wish the fans knew how much they care and how important it is for them to encourage them. Breon is one of the kids who absolutely loves wearing the purple and gold, loves playing here and loves this university. He is one of the many. It’s uplifting. He’ll catch a lot of negativity from other places, but not from me. We had nine turnovers before that game. Breon has done a lot of positive things for this team, and I think a lot of people can attest to that.”

On Trevon Brown’s Status:

“He’s not ready this week. He keeps rehabbing. I saw him heading down to the library yesterday and getting extra time in there. Trevon is a great kid. I see that boy every day and it puts a smile on my face, just like all of the boys.”

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

OUT –DE Demage Bailey (right knee), WR Trevon Brown (left knee)

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), ILB Devaris Brunson (right knee)

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

OFFENSE:

Outside Wide Reciever (X): Cam Worthy (Reserves: Terrell Green)

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 OR 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 OR K’Hadree Hooker)

Defensive End: Chrishon Rose (Reserves: Fred Presley OR K’Hadree Hooker)

Outside (SAM) Linebacker: Montese Overton (Reserves: Dayon Pratt)

Inside (MIKE) Linebacker: Zeek Bigger (Reserves: Cameron White OR Joe Carter)

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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