Coach Ruff Talks Pirate Football At Media Day

GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina University Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill addressed members of the media prior to the second day of practice at the Pirates' annual Media Day, which was conducted in Harvey Hall of the Murphy Center. The following is a transcript of McNeill's entire press conference.

Opening Statement
"First of all, I thank everyone for coming, participating and getting around our players this morning. It's a very special time for all of us. It's very exciting for the coaches. You can tell that it's also special for the players.

"During the period from spring ball to right now, there has been an aching feeling in all the staff's stomachs. We could not wait to get around the players. Yesterday, if you could put what all of us felt in a bottle, you could sell it and the product would not let you down. I know it was one of the most encouraging days in my coaching career."

On A New Era For East Carolina Football
"It's the beginning of a new era for the program. The past success is well documented. Two things happen to a coach: he leaves because he does not do well, or he leaves because he does well. In this case, Skip Holtz and his staff did a great job.

"As a staff, one of the things you try to do is instill some things in your football team. One of them is expecting to win. Hopefully that means playing in big-time, meaningful games that determine championship success."

On The Team's Conditioning Level
"This team has been exposed to championships and games that mean you go to a major bowl. I know that success carried over to [Assistant Director of Athletics for Strength and Conditioning] Coach Mike Golden and his staff in the offseason. He and his staff did a fantastic job getting the guys ready. Bringing the offensive, defensive and special teams schemes that we did, they have more of an up-tempo thought process. Coach Golden and I sat down and he was as professional as could be. He changed his workouts and thought process into what we needed. The kids were so accepting."

On Starting The Preseason And Goals For Camp
"All that brought us to right now, when we start our football part of it. We're finally able to have meetings, schematic implementation and thoughts and fundamentals. We can finally get around the kids again. It's special.

"The process I go into having the chance to lead the program is: what do I want to do and what do we want to see?

"Going into camp, when you lose 28 seniors as well as NFL draftee Linval Joseph, you worry about the talent level. I've been asked about that a number of times. One thing that's not mentioned, however, is the leadership that group provided.

"As a staff, we need to develop the leadership and those leaders in camp. There are different types of leaders, whether they are vocal, physical or both, we need them.

"There will be some guys who now have to play who may not have had significant repetitions coming into camp. I'm excited to see those guys. For those players, the glass is half full. They are grasping the opportunity to get the experience and play more.

"The next thing we want to develop is depth at all positions. We have to get our depth determined on offense, defense and special teams.

"The third thing to do in camp is make sure of what we are putting on tape, because that's all that matters. We have to determine what our personality and brand are going to be.

"We'll focus on those three things during fall practice.

"There are decisions personnel wise we have to make as a staff on all three sides of the ball. That has started already, but it will take time at some positions. Certain positions are moving a little bit faster than others, but they will all work themselves out and we'll make decisions.

"You guys are all here and it's football time. Jump in and jump on."

On His Staff
"I'm very blessed to have a great staff. I call them 'my guys' and they are like brothers to me. From Director of Administration Cary Godette to Director of Operations Antonio Huffman and all the way through to coordinators and position coaches, they are fantastic people. It's a great mix and blend of guys.

"I think you'll see what I mean when you get to know them. In age range, we are 27-59. We also have a variety of experience among our staff, from NFL to college to very extensive high school coaching experience. We have a little bit of everything. We have 56 years of offensive schematic knowledge on this staff. If you add me to the defense, we have nearly 86 years of experience. We also have head coach, coordinator, playoff game and bowl participation and success all on staff.

"I feel it's very important that everybody understand the thought process we have here. Trust and verification of trust is where it all begins. That's my first thought process.

"Next is staff chemistry. That's as important as team chemistry. I feel very blessed that we have that. Donnie Kirkpatrick, Golden and Assistant Athletics Director/Medical Services Mike Hanley have blended in. It has been as amazing of a professional experience as I've been around.

"It takes a team within a team to run one. Everybody has to know his role so that when something is broken, he can fix it. To me, the blend, mix and ages are perfect. I have to bring up all of them."

On Staff Moves
"Brian Mitchell is still defensive coordinator; Lincoln Riley is still the offensive coordinator. We made the move with Clay McGuire as special teams coordinator. Then we hired Duane Price as the defensive tackles coach and moved Marc Yellock to defensive ends."

On Choosing A Quarterback
"Lincoln has been a part of quarterback evaluations from day one. He was a part of that at Texas Tech working with coach Mike Leach. I have the utmost confidence in his evaluation process as well as the offensive staff's.

"Dominique Davis has done everything that we asked him to do. He enrolled in the first session of summer school and has been around the football team. He has done a great job with Coach Golden in the weight room. Shane Carden came in as well. He has also been a part of it. Brad Wornick and Rio Johnson were also here.

"The four of them also know that Josh Jordan approached Lincoln about wanting to help the football team in any kind of way. He moved to a wide receiver position. Jordan and Lincoln are still experimenting about being a Big "H" or even possibly a wide.

"We know we have great quarterback candidates. It will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis. Lincoln and Landon do a great job with stats each day at practice. We'll be methodical. We'll find a guy who Lincoln feels comfortable with and who can move the offense.

"Dominique, Shane, Brad and Rio have done a great job. All those guys have had big eyes and big ears. They have all done everything we've asked."

On Meeting Dominique Davis The First Time
"Really, Lincoln and I got on the plane and went to meet Dominique. It was his mother, father and him sitting in the front room. We told him what we believed and what I believed. We let him know what we're going to be about here and what the program will be known for.

"We had some demands for Dominique too, like we do for everybody. We needed him to be a professional and bring a successful mindset. Dominique looked in our eyes and said he was ready to go. That first meeting was pretty good.

"This spring, he came up on his own to watch practice. He enrolled in summer school and has been here ever since."

On What The Team's Personality Will Be
"We have to establish that. Each year the personality changes from team to team. One of the things we have to do is establish our personality.

"I really relish and enjoy the challenge of developing our personality and brand. We want to be a team that plays with great fundamentals and effort. We want to attack on offense, defense and special teams. Those things have to be established.

"Each team will be different. The personality grows throughout the year. No play you made the year before carries over to the next year. No success or failure carries over to the next season. Everything starts new.

"For us, we need to be fundamentally sound. We have to focus game in and game out and day in and day out. Those need to be priorities. Within that, the team's personality will develop."

On Surprises Within The Job
"The football part has not been a surprise, neither has the community involvement or Pirate Nation. The biggest thing is time management. Now I have to do more things for more people. When I was a coordinator, I could lock the door and watch film.

"Now, I have to make sure I manage time and divide it. I'm here to coach football. Why I'm here is this part right here and right now. Managing my time has been the toughest part so far. Football, speaking engagements and my family time have to be balanced out. My family also includes my coaching staff. I have to manage and divide that time with each group."

On The Most Important Thing For The Team Right Now
"It's a focus. I have been asked about games on the schedule down the road. As the head coach, I have to focus on today, today's practice and today's operation. It's the same thing with the team.

"With a squad that has some guys who will now get significant playing time who didn't before, I think it's important that they focus on a sequence of things. For example, today is execution, focusing on making routine plays and tempo. They still haven't reached the tempo on offense, defense or special teams that we want. It's not that the players don't want to, they just don't understand yet.

"One of the goals is to make sure they stay focused each day. When the season starts, we have to make sure we are not worried about the next few games ahead. There are a lot of games on the schedule. Our whole schedule is filled with top teams. We have to make sure we focus on the day-to-day-process and to focus on one game a week because that's all we have those seven days."

On The New Defensive Scheme
"I think they go hand in hand. When you want to attack offensively, you have to do it defensively. Those defensive staff guys with Mitchell, John Wiley, Yellock, Price and so on are on the same page. We want to attack on defense. We want to make sure we can blend, change coverages and disguise coverages. Each one of those staff members have been a part of that type of aggressive defense. They are all on the same page with me.

"The bottom line is a fundamental emphasis. The schemes on offense, defense and special teams that we have here are great. I love them. But it boils down to a couple things. This comes from my dad's upbringing, playing for coach Pat Dye and working with coach Danny Ford: it comes down to blocking on offense, tackling on defense and a combination of both on special teams.

"As a head coach, my job is to make sure we never neglect that here. The coaches we have in place on defense and offense feel the same way I do. I feel good about the defensive group and its philosophy. They have really come together. Who is in each of those rooms as coaches is very important because we need chemistry as a staff. I'm really very pleased with that so far."

On His Familiarity With The Staff
"I'm very fortunate to have guys who understand me and how I am. It's a little similar to what the Alamo Bowl was like in some aspects.

"It helps that we're on the same page in a hurry. There is always discussion and input of ideas and thoughts. There are already some things we've been through with trial and error. We know what we tried in the past and know what we won't do again. You can imagine how much time that saves. It's amazing.

"We can go in a room and we're all on the same page. Even the guys who weren't at Texas Tech with us and were not a part of it before are on the same page with us. We can make decisions, improvise in midstream and move on. It has been from the administration on through. All of those guys are able to adjust. I'm really blessed to have a group of professionals like that."


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