Ruffin McNeill PC Quotes: Florida

GREENVILLE, N.C. – Sixth-year East Carolina University Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill addressed members of the media on Monday prior Saturday’s road opener at Florida. The following are selected comments via ECU Media Relations.

Opening Statement:

“Our first game is always exciting. I was asked last week if I get nervous, but you get butterflies more than anything, but it’s exciting. It’s always a chance to see your team have an opportunity to grow under live action. You’ve been practicing and even going up against one another, but it’s an opportunity to see and work on things we have practiced in live situations. This year was the first time we saw a lot of new faces replace some really special players, who I predict will be in the Hall of Fame here pretty soon. We had some staff replacements. It was a neat deal probably more than anyone thinks about a lot in the first game. It was a lot of execution to get it done and it’s a big difference in practicing and playing the game. It was also an opportunity for our team, and even some of the coaches like Brad Davis, to see what we talked about with Pirate Nation and the energy we have. It’s a powerful Pirate Nation that we have here. Even I am always impressed with the impact our fans make.

“From the game, I thought, offensively, we managed the ball well with no turnovers. That’s big for the first game. I thought, up front, our offensive line did a great job of giving us a powerful point-of-attack and opening up lanes for our runners. I thought our runners did a good job of being their own blockers at times, running behind their pads. Ninety-five yards after contact is a really good number. How you judge that is 30-35 percent of your total yardage after contact is good. With 95 being our total, 45 percent, that’s really big so that tells you that when you’re getting through the first level and the back’s able to, again, be their own blocker and get extra yardage, whether it’s by a juke move or break tackles. We didn’t turn the ball over. That was big, big, big, big for us. What we need to improve on, and we talked about it, is our perimeter blocking even though it was good. When you see those long runs, that’s due to two of those four guys with the ball in their hands. We talked about, offensively, finishing plays.

“On defense, I thought we ran to the ball extremely well. They tackled well for our first game. We had two turnovers and we stopped them three times on fourth down, which in my mind that’s five turnovers. I was proud of that. I thought they kept fighting. Rob (Ambrose) does a great job. He played there as well and his dad’s a coach. He coached him. He’s got some really good kids. They did a good job offensively up front, a well-coached team. Our third and long percentages were right on time at 80-plus percent. There are other third down situations we count, like third and short, which are very tough but meaningful and we want to improve in those parts

. “On special teams, I thought our kickoff coverage was very good. Three times we got them down inside the 20. Our freshman, 91 (Caleb Pratt), we’ll call him by his name soon, he gave us good field position and pretty good hang time for his first game. He got his first touchback and I think he will be a special guy. Worth (Gregory) continued what he did last year with 47.3 yards per punt. We’ve got to get our return game to be a weapon for us and get us great offensive field position.

“Overall, I liked the intensity of our team. Winning a game is big, as some of those Power Five’s didn’t win their games. One point for us is penalties. We’ve addressed that and will continue to address that. Last night, we did a good job with our initial preparation for Florida. We’ll continue to get ready each day.

“We know we’re going to play a very talented football team, the University of Florida, with a lot of tradition. Mac’s (Jim McElwain) a good coach. I’ve known Mac a long time. He’s got a great staff with Randy Shannon and those guys. Then you’re playing in The Swamp. We’re looking forward to preparing, knowing we’re facing a really talented football team. Personnel wise, I’m kind of familiar with them from the bowl game, but they have a new staff so there will be new schematics and thought processes on all three sides of the ball.”

On The Biggest Difference On Tape Between Last Year’s Florida Team and This Year’s:

“I thought D.J. (Durkin) did a good job with them defensively last year, but you can see Mac’s influence on them in his first game. Defensively, you see where they’re sound and still playing some man coverage. They have some really good pass rushers and guys up front. They’re playing two quarterbacks with Treon (Harris) and Will Grier, who we know. They have a lot of speed and they’re a well-coached team. Mac’s a good ball coach.”

On The Difficulty of Preparing For Two Quarterbacks:

“I think Treon is mobile and Will is mobile as well. We offered Will (a scholarship) out of high school, so we know he’s a good player.”

On ECU’s Returning Players Not Thinking About Last Year’s Bowl Loss Prior to This Week’s Game:

“I would take it back to about six years ago. What we talk about is nothing last year counts, whether it was tackles, touchdowns or whatever you did. This is a whole new team. Of course, the guys who played in the game will know. What we try to do is focus on staying dedicated to our team concept, embracing our roles and doing things to help the team. We know we have a great opponent coming up on Saturday, but we have to back it on up and make sure we have a great day (today) and keep our vision, focus and dedication to the day-by-day, play-by-play grind. That’s how we’ll approach it. They’ll approach it the way we taught them, day-by-day.”

On Simulating Crowd Noise During Practice:

“We do it every week. Every Thursday, each team (offense, defense, special teams) has to operate under a lot of noise. It’s nothing new.”

On How Much He Leans On Experience Playing a Night Game at an SEC Opponent:

“It’s an SEC team. They’ll be very talented. They have a lot of NFL guys on that team. We know that. They have a great staff. Any experience you go through helps. You have to back it up and you can’t get lost. You have to re-frame this thing, stay focused on our team concept and never get away from that.”

On Blake Kemp’s Short Passes Against Towson:

“The offense is designed to take what they (defenses) give you. Blake did a good job for a first game. In any game, but especially first games, we give them what they can handle, not too much. Blake’s smart and been around it. He’s played in this offense. When he left high school, he went to junior college to be in a spread offense. He played in Wing-T in high school. He’s been taught to take what’s there whether it’s a screen or run. Blake handled it just like I thought he would. He’s one of those kids who, growing up, had no golden or silver spoon and had to work for everything he’s got. The kids love him.”

On Playing in a Hostile Environment Like Ben Hill Griffin Stadium:

“We’ve played in other hostile environments. We played at South Carolina and Virginia Tech last year. Those are some pretty rowdy crowds. There are a lot of stadiums. We know what The Swamp is about, but that’s an uncontrollable. I can’t tell them not to sell tickets or cut down from 90,000 and only let 30,000 show up. What we can control is practicing well and focusing. I’m excited to see us improve. The biggest improvement comes from game one to game two. It’s always that way. It’s just how it happens.”

On Florida:

“They’re a very talented football team. Treon Harris is an athletic sophomore quarterback. Will Grier’s a redshirt freshman, great arm and comes from a great program. His dad is an East Carolina Pirate. We thought we’d have a chance at him. At running back, Kelvin Taylor is shifty and has great speed. Demarcus Robinson is a really good player and wide receiver and so is Brandon Powell. They’ll move him around in slot positions and in the backfield. They’re a three-wide, two tight end personnel team that can pound it. Defensively, Vernon Hargreaves III at corner, everybody knows Vernon. He’s an NFL corner and deservedly so. As they had last year, up front, Jonathan Bullard and Antonio Morrison, but also (Alex) McAlister. They are a 4-2-5 and they want to control the run with four down guys and defend you in the passing lanes. We know it’s going to be a tough game. They’re an SEC team with a lot of depth.”

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