Ruffin McNeill Press Conference: Tulsa

GREENVILLE, N.C. — Fifth-year ECU coach Ruffin McNeill met with reporters Monday to discuss the Pirates' upcoming matchup with Tulsa.

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

Opening Statement:

“Last week, I made it pretty clear that we are in the fourth quarter of our season. I referenced it to a boxing match and the first round being Tulane. I knew it would be a tough game. This league is tough. It was game in a short week, but I thought it was a game that was really the epitome of when I talk about team and the value of working and being dedicated to our team. Everyone embraced their roles even more, and during the game, I thought that showed. We talk about resiliency, and it’s easy to say it, but to actually visualize and see it, I thought that game was a visual of our resiliency for a team that had two setbacks, two tough losses. To come back and play as they did, I was so proud of them and our coaches. I was proud of our sideline and I told them that during the game.

“We have another game this week and we knew we had this 13-day, three-game stretch, and we’ve adjusted our schedule accordingly. Anytime you go on the road to Tulsa, or in this conference, you have to be ready to have the right mindset and we will need that right mindset all week. I got through watching three weeks of just offense (on Tulsa) and they are a really explosive football team, so we will have to be ready.

“Touching on Justin (Hardy), he symbolizes what we want our program to stand for. He symbolizes that in so many ways as a team first, team last, team always player with a total commitment and dedication to the team while embracing his role, which is a high-priority role, but also finding ways to make the team better. Justin does that, (after) working his way from a walk-on to one of the greatest receivers in the history of college football. It’s something someone could make a movie or write a book about. His teammates absolutely adore him. He will be the first to tell you that his teammates are the reason he was able to achieve the record.

“I thought offensively against Tulane, we were very good in the red zone, going six of seven against the No. 1 defense in the American Conference. Our guys made competitive plays. We talk about each play and having an opportunity to make a play all game long, and it was important. Running the ball was very important. We had 15 explosive plays, which is big. Defensively, we were very good against the run, averaging 0.9 yards per carry, which is what we wanted – to control it and get them in third down situations where you can affect the quarterback. They completed some, but they were five out of 18 on third down. We did a really good job running to the ball on film and executing the game plan against Tulane.

“Defensively, there were 22 “Make-A-Difference” or MAD plays. It was a great job keeping the opposing team out of the end zone. Any time you can do that, it’s a great accomplishment for the defense because it doesn’t happen very often.

“On special teams, we have eight goals and we reached all eight in that game. We had four punts inside the 20. Worth (Gregory) was eighth or so in the country in punting, but he put that aside to give us great field position on defense. We had great starting position for our offense.

“I’m looking forward to preparation for this week. We didn’t practice last night because of (our) game plan. Normally, we talk game plan today, but this day is a heavy-installation day of the opponent. I’m looking forward to another challenge – round two – at Tulsa. It’s going to be a fist-fight.”

On Playing A Road Game During Thanksgiving Week Two Years In A Row:

“It’s different. We will try to make it as family-appropriate as possible. We always do. We will have a meal, invite the coaches’ families and kids. As coaches, we’ve done some things different with practice all year, such as when to give them (days) off and when to give them rest because it’s been a very physical year for everyone, coaches included. It’s very important that we have the right mindset, understanding that we have to play a great game on the road.”

On What The Tandem Of Brandon Williams and Zeek Bigger Has Meant To The Defense:

“Leadership. Passion. They are smart football players – athletic. I always thought I was good at coaching linebackers, and John Wiley is outstanding. They accept coaching. I think the fact that those two and Maurice (Falls) are related family-wise gives them that instinct that you can’t coach. They know where each other will be and won’t be. Brandon has played outstanding, and so has Zeek. They complement each other. We don’t take those guys out on third down. They are every-down linebackers. Sometimes, you take a linebacker out to put a defensive back or a faster guy in different packages. Those guys play in all situations.”

On If He Is Trying To Get Marquez Grayson More Involved:

“We still want to get all those backs involved. Marquez has done a great job running downhill. He’s growing each week. Breon Allen and Chris Hairston are doing a great job. They have different packages for those guys. This was a game where we didn’t get to run as many offensive plays as normal. Marquez has done a great job in protection and on special teams. We will keep playing that committee this week. Each guy has a different package they will run in, but I’m pleased with how he (Grayson) is progressing.”

On Penalty Numbers Going Down The Last Two Weeks:

“I think we had five this game and five last game. I’ve been pleased with that. Harold Robinson on our staff is in charge of getting the officials around and they have been great coming out dressed just like it’s a game, throwing the flags around for us and explaining what to do. Our guys have that coach-me-coach mentality and they’re doing a great job of teaching our kids. We try to put them in positions like they’ll see in each game. The officiating crew on Saturday was fantastic, and so was the one at Cincinnati. We have to do our job of continuing to do what we’ve done the last two weeks.”

On Still Being In The Conference Championship Hunt:

“We have never approached it as being over. We’re just disappointed because we had some tough losses where time just ran out on us in those games. In this business, you know you have a chance and you’re never out of the fight. What we worry about even more are controllables, like our mindset this week. That’s the one thing we can control this week and that’s how we’ll approach it.”

On DaShaun Amos’ Performance In His First Start:

“Amos has done a great job, and Josh (Hawkins) has, too. I believe in playing a lot of kids. Amos has done a great job on special teams and in our third down package we call the “Nickel”. Badger is his nickname, and he’s a really good football player. You’ll see us rotating Boobie (Dashawn Benton) and Detric (Allen) at the other corner, too. We’ve been rotating the safety position as well.”

On Differences Between Josh Hawkins And DaShaun Amos:

“Both are rangy and smart. They’re both good football players. They have the length we want and Rick (Smith) is one of the best teachers I’ve been around. He’s the best at taking them to places they didn’t think they could go.”

On Tulsa:

“They are up-tempo. They’ll be a three and four wide (receiver) offense. They have the same scheme as they had two years ago when they were really explosive. They do a really good job of spreading the ball around. Dane (Evans) is a dual-threat quarterback. We will have to be sound and play with an up-tempo beat. Dane is gaining command of the offense. The more reps those guys get, the more the game slows down for them. When you’re young it speeds up, but now it’s slowing down. It will be a tough task for our defense.”

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

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


Inside ECU Sports Top Stories