Ruffin McNeill PC Quotes: Virginia Tech

GREENVILLE, N.C. — ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill spoke with reporters during his weekly press conference on Monday. Here's a transcribed version of his presser via ECU Media Relations.

Opening Statement:

“Wrapping up the game, offensively, I thought we made some competitive plays. (We) have to cut down on penalties and continue to improve the run game. That has not been what we wanted and people are doing things a little bit differently, like Navy blitzing more than they ever have on film to make us one-dimensional. We were thinking back to when Shane (Carden) first took over. Those are some things we know we have to do offensively.

“Defensively, I thought we kept fighting. The first half was tough, but we made adjustments in the second half. With that team (Navy), you have to be ready. Watching the film, it wasn’t a missed assignment, but you can’t be a hair off on these guys. They’re that precise. They did a good job and I knew they would. I thought in the second half, we did a good job handling adjustments, but just not good enough to pull it out on that side. We have to really work on having consistent technique. We have to get more takeaways to give our offense more opportunities. In that game, we knew you had to value possessions. In a normal game, (you get) probably 12 or 14 possessions, and that game, we knew it was a possession-type game. We had to get more of them. We have to get off the field on third down. That was the type of team that if you can get them in third-and-long, you had an advantage.

“On special teams, our kickoff coverage team continues to do well. We let one get out. We have to make sure we bottle that up. Again, Caleb (Pratt) is doing a good job kicking the ball off for us. I’m proud of him as a true freshman. Worth (Gregory) did a good job on his one punt. The return game is where we have to take advantage of our deals.

“You watch the games and see the teams we play and there is no margin for error. This week is no different coming up against Virginia Tech. Also from these past three games, we evaluate the teams we’ve played, the talent we’ve played, and that’s our deal here. All three sides of the ball have to really feed off each other. We’ve had some moments of it, but that’s one of our goals to improve upon. It’s always going to be a dedication for us to stay focused on the team concept. Our old guys are doing a good job leading and keeping it up within the team.”

On Virginia Tech:

“Virginia Tech is coming in here. Everybody knows how I feel about Coach (Frank) Beamer. He’s a Hall of Famer – one of the best in the business and one of the best people in the business. He felt like this team would be one of his best. They return nine starters on offense. I know Mike (Brewer) got hurt a little bit. He’s not back yet, but they’ve got (Brenden) Motley who is mobile, big and has been around the program. He has size, athleticism and a strong arm. You see him, like in the Purdue game for example, extend plays and he’s got a lot of weapons around him.

“This tight end group for Virginia Tech is one of the best we’ve faced. That’s Ryan Malleck and Bucky (Hodges). We tried to recruit Bucky as well. You look at their team, and a lot of guys on that roster are guys we tried to get to come to East Carolina. Up front, Jonathan McLaughlin, he’s one of them as well. They’ll use two tight ends a lot, they’re not afraid to split those guys out. J.C. Coleman is one of the fast running backs they have. Isaiah Ford is one of the receivers that stands out on film.

“Bud (Foster) has a really good defense again. Kendall Fuller, I know I’ve called out his name a lot. I thought he had already graduated. This is like six years I’ve been calling his name out. Up front, Dadi Nicolas is really active, (has) quick feet and attacking. We really have to make sure we have a handle on him. Michael Thomas is another outstanding athlete. Bud is still doing what he does with heavy blitzing and going to some 3-4 mixes, but he’s always been 4-2-5.

“On special teams, Coach Beamer’s forte is the same. They’re number one in the league in kickoff coverage and always in the Top 10-15 in returns.

“I’m glad we’re coming home. We have another chance to see our fans and I look forward to that. I look forward to Dowdy-Ficklen (Stadium) being extremely excited. Our great venue is second to none. I’m ready to dive into this week.”

On If Winning This Game Means A Little Bit More Because Of The Recruiting Aspect:

“Winning the game for our team is great, but because we do hit that area hard and we battle each other, especially in the 757 Virginia Beach area and the Richmond area. Even when you get into that D.C./Alexandria, Virginia area, it’s really big for us. We see each other a lot on the road. John Wiley and Marc Yellock hit that hard. It means a lot in a lot of different ways, but for our team: win by one. We need that juice.”

On The Momentum A Game Like This Can Give ECU:

“We always keep things in perspective. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves as a team in the first three games. We realized that we have to have a total, three-prong feeding frenzy as we call it. Our offense, defense and special teams all have to play well. We know we’re facing a great team in Virginia Tech, a great program. The win is beneficial for our kids, not really thinking about the rest of the season, but making sure we get back on track. It’s tough. It’s another physical game. I thought the Florida and Navy games were physical and this game will be physical. We have to be ready to approach it and prepare well. Having a great week of practice is very important.”

On Bud Foster’s Defense And If It Has Evolved Over The Years:

“He has always been in an attack mode. Now he’s got guys he can man up and lock down, as opposed to maybe in the past, he played a little more zone. (He has) the same pressure and attacking thought process up front, especially the front seven. That really hasn’t changed. I found out in the Big 12 (Conference), that each coordinator needs to have a package where you’re able to play with five defensive backs in a game. When he first started, he would go with four down, four linebackers and three defensive backs, with those outside guys being very fast.”

On What Has To Start Clicking To Get The Running Game Going:

“They’re loading the box up on us and making us fight for it. I want to be able to run the football. When Shane (Carden) was able to make them pay for doing that, that’s when you see them start to loosen up the box a little bit. I think guys are challenging themselves. That group up front has to play like a quarter, not like five nickels. I want to run the football and I’ve been disappointed that we haven’t been able to these last few games. You have to give those teams a little bit of credit, too. We’ll figure it out. This week will be a good week to start, but it’s a tough opponent to do it against.”

On If Using The Run Game Will Make Bud Foster’s Defense Over-Pursue:

“You hope so. They do a good job, even when they’re blitzing, of gap discipline. We know when we’ll have to stretch them vertically and that’s what we had to do last year. I like the way our skill guys are competing downfield. We want to be able to stretch the field on all opponents, vertically and horizontally, with the run game mix. We’ll keep working hard to do that.”

On Who Can Replace Cam Worthy As The “Field-Stretcher” This Year:

“I think Davon (Grayson), Trevon (Brown) coming back this week will be able to. Bryce (Williams) has done a really good job going up, attacking the ball. Zay (Isaiah Jones) can stretch it. We have a lot of guys who we think can stretch the field and attack the football. It was good to see DaQuan Barnes step up the other day and Brandon Bishop make some plays.”

On Jimmy Williams’ Recent Success:

”We made a conscious effort. I talked with Dave (Nichol) and we thought he played well at Florida. We had to get him the ball more – more touches. We’re very aware of those. We want ball distribution. At the ‘Z’ we knew we had to get them more touches. It was good to see Jimmy accept the challenge. I think what he’s doing is he’s blocking well. Jimmy has gained weight. He was probably 100-nothing soaking wet when he came up here. I could pick him up like a piece of paper. Jimmy does some special things with the ball in his hands. He’s got a knack, especially to get vertical. He’s shifty and faster than a lot of people think.”

On His Message To The Fans Despite The Tough Start To The Season:

“Keep believing and believe in your team. Believe in the kids and know that they work hard. This is not our first time being in a situation like this. There’s no panic button. It’s a confidence button. What we talk about is always remembering what our base philosophy is, and that’s staying dedicated to the team first and then staying dedicated to the vision and accomplishing that mission. We won’t deviate from that. We have a lot of games left. There’s a lot of ball to be played.”

On If There Is Anything Planned As Far As Extra Rest After Physical Games The Last Two Weeks:

“We have to be smart in our preparation. There are some guys who still need some work, but you have to be smart, knowing there will be physicality the rest of the year. Coach (Jeff) Connors does a good job with recovery. Yesterday, they got a lift in to get them moving and keep their bodies strong, but also getting their legs back under them. We’ll be smart on the field by taking care of them that way and not beat them down. We still do good-on-good and first-on-first to stay with the speed of the game, but we have to make sure we stay smart and keep guys as healthy as we can. Saturday is going to be another physical day and approach for us. The execution part will definitely be needed. They bring the wood and we need to make sure we bring the wood as well.”

If Special Teams Will Be Emphasized More During Practice This Week:

“I’ve never been a special teams coordinator before. We spend more times on special teams than anybody. Our first meeting is about special teams every day. We have special teams integrated four times within our practices. We know and the team knows how good they are. They take pride in it, too. Coach Beamer has been there a long time and he understands the importance of it. I met Coach Eddie Robinson at a convention during my first year at Clemson and I asked him for his advice. He said to never neglect special teams. Most people do, but we won’t here. We know we have a tough task. We want to make sure we take the same pride in our special teams. Special teams is one of the areas where you need 11 “zigging” and 11 “zagging.” If you have 10 zigs and one zag, that’s when blocks come. I hold my breath each play of the game.”

On Blake Kemp’s Game-to-Game Progression:

“I think it’s just like any new quarterback at the position. You go through trial and error. Against the teams we play, you don’t have any margin for error. I think he doesn’t get happy feet in the pocket, even though he’s under pressure. I think he’s still learning. The communication between him and Nich (Dave Nichol) will continue to get better. Like last year for example, Shane and Lincoln (Riley) knew exactly what they were thinking the whole time. That comes over time and going through experiences together. He (Blake) and James (Summers) do a really good job of complimenting each other. They room together on the road and they pull for one another. I think Blake will continue to improve. He’s calm. He takes everything personal. He doesn’t want to let the team or the university down. I love being around Blake and James. They keep me humble. I like the way he’s coming along.”

On When James Summers Will See The Field:

“You’ll see him play this week. I think there are strengths to both quarterbacks. You like to have one guy, I’ve always been that way, but there are some things James can add to our team and our offense. You’ll see us making a conscious effort to get him some time.

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