McNeill PC Quotes: BYU

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

Opening Statement:

“It was good to get a win. I thought it was a team win. I keep saying that, but it was big. Defensively, 2-of-14 on third down was enormous. I mentioned last week that I thought we had to get off the field (after) third down. To hold a team that put up points against TCU, Baylor and even their last game, and to get off the field and give our offense extra possessions was very big. We felt like if we could control the run, not stop it, but control it, we could have a chance to affect the quarterback. If you let Matt (Davis) get out of the pocket, you see what he can do. It was very important for us to be disciplined in our rush lanes when pass rushing and he keep him contained. What we had in for him was what we call a “mush rush.” It was holding our gaps with our interior guys, and if we got them into long-yardage situations, we could use Yiannis (Bowden) and Montese (Overton) to get pressure on them. The kids adjusted. A couple times, Chad (Morris) did a good job. They came out and showed us some different things. We call them sister plays off of previous plays that they had done. Rick (Smith), John (Wiley), Duane (Price) and Marc (Yellock) did a great job of adjusting and you could tell that because they (SMU) couldn’t come back to those plays. A lot of the focus has been on our quarterbacks and offense, but you have to give our defense their due. They’ve been tested all year long and I’m proud of the way they’ve hung in there.

“A lot of these games, especially ours, are decided before the kickoff even happens during the week. It’ll start to get a little discombobulated, a little different, maybe a little wacky after this week (and) getting back late with a regular game the following week, but then we go to five-day and eight-day stretches and those type of deals, so as a staff we’ve had to plan on that. We’re not looking ahead or anything, but making sure we’re smart as coaches and giving our guys the proper rest and those types of things.

“I think we had a great practice last week. I thought Tuesday was a little jumbled, but as that practice went on we got better. I thought Wednesday’s practice went well. Thursday was really a sharp practice. I thought the kids did very well in our walkthroughs at the hotel in Dallas on Friday and Saturday morning.

“We talked about playing all four sides of the ball and I think we saw that. We meet at the end of the second quarter and the fourth quarter. I meet with the entire team and we summarize those happenings, so our team had a chance to see SMU go through all four sides feeding off one another. We settled down and had our chance to put that all four side deal together that we learned from the first three games and went on a 42-0 stretch. That team we played, and Chad’s going to do a great job there, they have the capability to move the football.

“I thought our special teams, for another week in a row, punted really well with four inside the 12 (yard line) and had another that went 68-70 yards. I thought our coverage teams and coverage units – they had a really good returner – they were giving us the chance to hang that thing up and get up under it. (On) Our kickoff coverage, Caleb (Pratt) is doing a really good job. Every time he kicked it out, I think six or seven times, it went out of the end zone. We like that because we can start from the 25-yard line and make some calls from there. On the return units, you see Quay (Johnson) step up and that means the guys are blocking up front and doing their assignments up front. We were able to get 83 yards in what we call hidden yardage on special teams. I thought they gave us a really good opportunity to gain field position. Having been a special teams coordinator, I relish that.

“I thought, offensively, they did a good job not getting down on themselves, which these kids won’t do that. Again – no panic. You want to start fast in the game. That’s one of the things we’ve learned. Our kids won’t stray away from the game plan. Blake (Kemp) had the long pass to Davon (Grayson), but James (Summers) came in and did some positive things, gave us some energy and opened up the run game. That’s when you see us start attacking it down the field vertically, taking shots.”

On BYU:

“(Regarding) BYU, it’s a unique relationship we have. Bronco (Mendenhall) and our staffs exchange ideas defensively. That probably started about five years ago. Robert Anae is one of my best friends. He’s their offensive coordinator. You’ll see similar, mirror images defensively, and even offensively. People talk about the ‘Air Raid’ and that started with Lavelle, Coach Edwards. You’ll see that at BYU. Robert uses 12-personnel, which is two tight ends and a lot of 10-personnel which is four wideouts. They have the tallest wide receivers I’ve ever coached against in my entire life and they’re very athletic. Mitch Mathews is 6’6, 215 (lbs.) and Terenn Houk is 6’5-6’6, 225 (lbs.). They really use those guys well. They always have big tight ends there. They’re really big and can cause matchup problems. Just like a lot of teams have, they lost their starting quarterback to injury versus Nebraska. They inserted a freshman, Tanner Mangum, and he is athletic with a strong arm as the starter – he’s a big-time player. He committed to Stanford out of high school. Tanner has stepped in and done a great job. He’s very accurate and mature. I could tell on film, so you’re not going to be able to rattle him. We have to do a great job of controlling them up front. Robert played offensive line, so he’s a great offensive line coach. I learned a lot about offensive line play from Robert when we were together at UNLV and Texas Tech. They’re very technique-sound up front. Ryker Mathews has 28 starts with Brad Wilcox and Kyle Johnson. Those guys are 6’5, 6’6 and 6’7 in the range of 300-plus (lbs.). It’s going to be a war in the pits with the big guys.

“Defensively, he likes length and so do I, and he’s got length. It’s really unique. Their safety Kai Nacua is 6’2, 215 (lbs.) and very active. Their safeties are very active. In this defense, the strong safety has to be big and physical, and involved in the run game. Up front, Bronson Kaufusi is 6’8, 280 (lbs.) and a great pass rusher with great hands and they move him around a lot. They use him a lot on the edge, stand him up and drop him. They have two very active linebackers, Harvey Langi and Manoa Pikula. Their special teams are disciplined and the punter is really outstanding.

“We have to make sure we go in with the same type of game plan this week and do a great job in practice. We’ll get out to Provo and get acclimated a little bit earlier, moving things up a lot earlier so we can get bed down earlier at night with the two-hour time difference and prepare well.”

On Playing At A High Altitude in Provo, Utah:

“I’ve coached there before and we know it’s going to be up there. Matt (Ater) and Jeff (Oliver) have been doing a good job getting us prepared for that.”

On Third Down Success Offensively So Far This Season:

“I think getting them in workable downs (is important). They key on both sides of the ball is to make sure we have a great first down. Offensively, you want to have at least four or more (yards) on first downs if you can. Defensively, you want to be three or less. Second and medium is very workable. I think we work on it a lot. We work on our first down presence and long yardage. During the year, that’s the ‘hold your breath time.’ We go ones-on-ones with the chains and sticks. Even when we go scout team, if they hold them on so many third downs, the offense has to do up-downs. We put a little challenge in there with them. Defensively, we begin with our third down package on Sunday and then we’ll have third down medium-and-long periods on Tuesday and Wednesday in the middle of practice. We just have to execute. That’s when the competitive plays come into play.”

On If The Fourth Road Game In The First Six Games Wears On The Team:

“For us, the routine is big. We won’t change our routine whether it’s home or away. If it’s home, we isolate the 70 guys who are playing. Away, same routine. Now, I’m going to bump up things earlier, but it will be the same routine. We started doing that last year, bumping things earlier with the schedule differences. We’ve got that figured out. The guys know, from me, the (days) we want run excellently are Fridays and Saturdays.”

On BYU’s Game Day Atmosphere:

“It’s packed and electric out there. We’ve got second-to-none here, but they do a great job supporting their team. They always have. They come out in full force. They’ll have a noisy crowd there, but we’ve played in some loud-noise areas. We’ll have to put up the noise (at practice) maybe Wednesday this week. It’s supposed to be good weather in the 70’s and 50 at night. The routine and what we do won’t change.”

On James Summers Possibly Starting This Weekend:

“We plan on keeping it a two-quarterback system. We judge who starts on what gives us the best advantage. One thing you saw with us last week, with Shawn Furlow and Justin Brown, it’s about what gives us the best advantage. It’s about having your adjustments and answers ready. A visual example from last week is Yiannis (Bowden). Yiannis isn’t ready to be a full-time backer like ‘Tese (Montese Overton), but he has a great knack for special teams. We’ll use the quarterbacks the same way. Their talents complement each other and it makes teams prepare for both. James is getting more comfortable with the package and the system. He’s really a neat kid on the sideline. I’m proud of his progress, but we’ll use both. I think it gives us the best opportunity as a team.”

On What Makes Blake Kemp and James Summers So Neat On The Sideline:

“As soon as a series over, those two get together with Nich (Dave Nichols), and if James is watching, Blake goes ‘right now.’ You see them exchange mental notes. For example, SMU has been a big zone coverage team, and they may see the safety cheat or give way in man coverage. They exchange what they see and what they’ve done differently to make sure we get into the right audible and right play. They do it for one another.”

On Montese Overton’s Performance:

“I was proud of Montese. He came to me early last week because he felt like he was thinking too much. What we did was we put plays from the past on film. I said, ‘Hey, go pull up Lawrence Taylor.’ It was Tuesday, maybe Wednesday night. I told him to text me once he got done watching, cut loose and just play. He did and I was proud of him. I thought he and Yiannis (Bowden) complemented one another and really just played. I told Josh Hawkins to ‘just be Josh.’ I told ‘Tese to just be ‘Tese and go let loose. If you make a mistake, it’s mine. I’m not worried about him not giving effort. He is full speed right from the get up. We’ve got have that from him consistently now.”

On Some Guys Stepping Up Against SMU:

“One of the things is I’m not a Type-A coach. I like (to know) what gives us an advantage in the game. What can give us an advantage in the game on all three teams? I watch practice. I watch every player in practice, every day. Other coaches can’t do that. I do it, whether it’s scout offense or scout defense. That takes a lot of time. I play it back. I see Yiannis (Bowden) in our pass rush drills. He’s got a little knack. He can dip his hips and use his length. Shawn (Furlow), he was on our look team and even special teams, he’s always got a burst. You’ll see him get better as he gets used to it like Quay (Johnson) has done. He can give us a mismatch in space. He’s hard to tackle in a phone booth. Justin (Brown) did a great job against our offense, giving them a good look. Man, he was hard to handle. Every kid can help us get an advantage. I was happy with how they reacted to the opportunity.”

On If Deondre Farrier Could Have That Kind of Impact Later This Season:

“He’s doing well in practice. He’s really talented, but right now we have Quay (Johnson) and Zay (Isaiah Jones) doing a great job at that position. With Jimmy Williams out, we may have to use him. He’s eager. With him, we’re so stacked at that position. Eight receivers are about what we can handle.”

On James Summers’ Leadership:

“He’s a great team guy. You’re talking about a guy who had to learn the position over again because he was thinking wide receiver. You just have to be patient with them and give guys a chance for success. When we hired Dave (Nichol) from Arizona, Robert Anae said, ‘Ruff, he’s one of the best player developers I’ve been around.’ And that’s a compliment coming from Rob. I like what he (James) brings.”

On Adjustments To Make The Running Game As Effective With Blake Kemp As The Quarterback:

“Blake has the same plays in tune for him with quarterback keeps, design plays and zone read. It’s almost like an option-type thought process. BYU is going to blitz and being able to stretch them gives them an opportunity. Make those guys be honest on the back end. Make them stay with two safeties. If not, we’ll test them.”

On Comeback Wins The Last Two Weeks:

“I think it helps the team believe in what you believe in, which is execution, doing your job, making plays and competitive plays. I don’t worry about us every quitting. That is not in our program and not in our thought process. It helps to teach them to be patient and stay with the game plan. Games are won before Saturday, and they’ve done a good job not doing their own things, but staying with the game plan. We tell them, ‘What you do might work, what we do will work.’ The kids believe in it and that’s good to see. We’ll get better at it each week. We’re nowhere near where we want to be or have to be, but to see them believe in it helps.”

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