McNeill PC Quotes: SMU

GREENVILLE, N.C. — ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill spoke with the media following his team's 35-28 victory over Virginia Tech. He breaks down SMU, talks James Summers and more. Check out the full transcript courtesy of ECU Media Relations.

Opening Statement:

“It was a great win and great environment. I thought the Pirate Nation came out in full force and stayed in the rain. I did our American Conference press conference and was asked about our environment and said it’s second-to-none. They asked me to describe it and I said it’s a passion for the university and the entire athletics (department). People plan their operations, surgeries and weddings around it, so it’s a great atmosphere and I’m very proud of Pirate Nation for coming out and supporting like they did.

“Coming off of two tough losses and falling behind by 14 early, we knew against a defense like Bud (Foster’s) we had to (work hard). I was proud of the kids because we held our composure and really stayed dedicated to the task, the game plan that we had put in after watching the film and reviewing it yesterday. Any time you fall behind a good team like that, that’s what it’s going to take. A lot of times, these games are decided before the kickoff, in practice. We always talk about that. The kids prepared well and the staff did a great job in preparation with having adjustments ready to go. Even though we had some struggles early, on both sides of the ball, it was great to come out with that win. Getting the win was big time for us. We needed it and wanted it. You learn something about your team each game. In the first quarter, we found out that against really good opponents the margin for error is so small. We also found out that we have to have a four side of the ball blend each game. We have to. We saw it a little bit on Saturday, but we have to have it again.

“I thought, offensively, they adjusted well throughout the entire game. I thought the players did a good job of accepting the adjustments and the staff did a good job of presenting them. I thought we ran the ball well. We added the quarterback to it. We did it with Shane (Carden) a little bit more, but added that with both of the guys. I thought starting fast was something we have to continue to work on. The offensive line did a really good job of creating running lanes for our runners, too.

“I thought the defense played fast in the conditions that we were in. We played well through some adversity at times during the game, which we found in the first three games that we had to do as a team. They had some big stops and we had to have them. The pass-rush lanes we need to improve on. We have to this week because the quarterbacks we’re facing, really all season, will be able to hurt you with their legs. We have to get back to our run game. One of the things we’ve had the last three years been being able to control the run. Virginia Tech did a good job also running the quarterback. We want to be better on fourth downs and get more takeaways.

“The kickoff coverage continues to be strong for us. I was proud of our special teams facing one of the top special teams in the country for many years. I thought our special teams did a good job holding their own, perhaps edging them on some yardage things after the game. Caleb (Pratt) pinned them back deep, kicked some out of the endzone and when they brought it out, we were able to get them inside their 20 (yard line). I thought our punt unit had a great game. We were worried about their punt block. They have a history of it. The guys did a good job of protecting and Worth (Gregory) did a good job of punting the ball and back them up late in the game. It was big for us. The punt team didn’t allow a return, so that was big.

“I’m very proud of how we played on all three sides of the ball and now it comes to getting prepared for the next one. It’s a conference game coming up, which is very important. All games are, but we’re going to have to prepare well. They had a tough game on Saturday, but I know Chad (Morris) will have them ready to go, so we’ve got to worry about ourselves and make sure we’re ready to go and prepare. It starts, like always, today with the coaches and into tomorrow.”

On Expectations For Running Back Shawn Furlow:

“(I’ll) play him. He’s got some skills that we can play. The only red shirt I want him to wear is the one he’s wearing to class or deciding on an outfit. He can do it and we’ll find ways to get him the football. He’s a football player and mature enough to handle it like Isaiah (Jones) and them.” On How He Likes Using Wide Receiver Quay Johnson:

“I like the way he’s handling it. We played Quay last year, like Shawn, and I think that’s big for him. The next year, you can tell he’s more comfortable there. We knew what Quay could do and that step from high school to college is a big step. It’s a more physical step. I like that Quay is doing a good job of being a team player. He’s a neat kid, but he’s a competitor. Finding ways to get him the ball is very important on returns and in the passing game. We’ll keep finding ways to get all those touches.”

On Evaluating The Two Quarterback System

“I look at it as a great opportunity for our team. You’ve got two really talented guys that play the position and do it a little bit differently. They make each other better with their abilities. We’ll continue to use them. They’re great teammates in the support of one another. In James’ (Summers) interview, the first thing he did was compliment Blake (Kemp) and in Blake’s interview he complimented James. I’m very proud of that aspect. We’ll keep using both.”

On Worrying About James Summers Running And His Durability:

“Every snap, with all of them, I hold my breath. Every time. He’s just a competitor. You saw late in the game when he slid and they got a late hit on him. He’s the type of guy, and he said it in his first (conversation with me), ‘Coach, I will do whatever you want me to do to help the team.’ That’s the sacrifice. We work for that.”

On If Blake Kemp Will Remain The Starting Quarterback:

“We will keep integrating both in practice and games. You’re talking about two guys who had no idea they would be playing quarterback right now and both have stepped in. You have to be patient with James (Summers). Everyone was trying to rush that. You don’t rush that. You want kids to have as much success as possible. He was ready, but Dave Nichol did a great job of prepping him in practice. It’s the same thing with Blake. Blake had a year under Shane so he’s a little bit further ahead with the offense. We’ll keep using both of them. You have to learn in coaching that flexibility and being able to change is not a weakness, it’s a strength when you learn how to do it. We have this system, but also, we’re able to adjust to it and do what your guys do. It’s like a puzzle. You put the round peg in the round hole.”

On Why The Fans Don’t Buy In To Using Two Quarterbacks And Call It A Controversy:

“If you just listen to me – trust me when I tell you, I don’t have any reason to fool you. I’m not sure why y’all do that. What I tell you is what we’ll try to do. I won’t try to hide anything. I could’ve waited until the start of the game, but I told you last week I was going to play James (Summers). The first thing he did was thank Blake (Kemp) for getting us back in (the game). They’re roommates. They’re really good friends. When both guys believe in the team concept, that’s where I make the decision and how I trust.”

On What He Saw Differently After The First Quarter Against Virginia Tech:

“Execution, routine, (they) settled down (and) stayed with the game plan. They were dedicated to the task all week long. They had really good practice sessions. Routine plays and competitive plays were big. The offensive line played like a quarter – not five nickels.”

If Virginia Tech Did Things That He Had Not Seen In Previous Meetings:

“They ran more zone. Bud (Foster) is Bud. They got into what they do. I have a lot of respect for Bud and Coach (Frank) Beamer. I was proud of our guys for battling and fighting. What I was proud of as I mentioned was how we need all four sides. The sideline was great – really supportive when the kids came off to the sideline. We had great special teams, offensive and defensive play. How many times can we get that in a row? We got a chance to do that during that comeback.”

On Chris Hairston Becoming A Blocker For James Summers:

“That’s what we’re trying to work to. The best players don’t win, the best team does. I’d rather have players that make the team great rather than a great player. Chris had no objection to doing that because he wanted to do whatever he could to help the team. The majority of our team thinks like that. If you don’t, you’ll be exposed by these guys. That’s why Chris has been a captain these first four games. If you come around these guys and you try to bring selfishness, I don’t have to say anything. They’re the judge and jury. That locker room is the greatest laboratory for human development. We’ve got guys in there who believe in what we believe in and the dedication to the team concept. So, when Chris had to turn into a blocker there was no hesitation. He did it and did it well. Those are the team things I like. I’m fortunate to have that. The family atmosphere is very important to me here. The team first, last and always is very important. It’s not about you individually, it’s us and ours.

On Jordan Williams’ Development:

“I think special teams, we play a lot of guys there. Zeek (Bigger) and those guys, Brandon Williams – they developed on special teams. Devaris (Brunson) going down, that was a big lick, but Jordan had to be ready to step up and make plays. Coach (John) Wiley, who coaches those guys, he’s a ball coach. We’ve known each other since 1989. He’s a great teacher. He demands. I don’t know if I could play for him. It was good to see Jordan involved like he was. The interception was big. We need him to keep improving. He does a good job on our special teams too now. He calls the signals for the punt team and gets the blocking assignments ready. He checks us into a lot of things for us on the punt team. He’s very valuable for us right now.”

On The Defensive Line’s Play:

“We challenge those guys. Those guys have to be tone setters. I really believe that the strength of a team is in your big guys on the offensive line, defensive line and special teams. I’m proud of the way Demetri McGill has come along. He played as a freshman, too. His first game was (against) UNC a couple years ago. Coach (Marc) Yellock – I couldn’t play for him. He’s tough on them, but they love him and play hard. I like the way those guys are playing.”

On The Difference Between Sunday Practices After Navy and Virginia Tech:

“I like the way we approached practice. Sunday is a bit of an installation day. It was a physical game played in tough conditions. It was a recovery day for a lot of them, but I thought we flew around well on special teams.”

On What Concerns Him Most About SMU Because They Don’t Have Much To Lose:

“They have a lot to lose. They played non-conference games and look at who they played. Chad (Morris) is a good football coach and that’s the only way I look at it and I watch the ball film. They’ve got a good team, a good quarterback and athletic skill positions. The offensive line has great pad level. They stretch you vertically. Chad runs an up-tempo offensive. They’re playing at home. We play SMU. It’s not about them, it’s about us. We don’t control them, we control us. We must have great prep this week.”

On How SMU Is Different This Year From Last:

“They’re a more even-front, which is 4-2-5. Van Malone, I’ve known him a long time. He’s a really good ball coach. They play extremely hard. They have a linebacker, Jonathan Yenga, who is an active player. I like him a lot. They’ve got some rangy guys up front and pass rushers. Justin Lawler is a really good pass rusher. They have an experienced guy at defensive back in Darrion Richardson, so we have to make sure we execute on offense. It goes back to routine plays for us.”

Inside ECU Sports Top Stories