GREENVILLE — The recruiting insiders
may not have been overwhelmed by East Carolina's football signing class
but new Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill, in his unique style, has expressed
his love for them.
Scout.com ranks all 120 programs in the
Football Bowl Subdivision in terms of the total talent they have
procured and places the Pirates at an unflattering 101st. Only Rice, at
102, and UAB, at 111, are behind ECU among Conference USA teams.
One factor that is not evaluated is how
effectively a program fills its needs. Nor do the recruiting services
consider the extenuating circumstances that McNeill faced in terms of
keeping a class together after Skip Holtz's departure to South Florida.
"I love the bunch we have," McNeill
said at a media briefing in the defensive meeting room of the Ward
Sports Medicine Building on Wednesday afternoon. " ... I like these guys
we have to fit that offensive side."
McNeill has brought along former Texas
Tech offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley to run the same sort of "Air
Raid" attack that helped the Red Raiders upset Texas and shake up the
BCS championship picture in 2008.
"Defensively, we'll need a lot of
athleticism," McNeill said. "We want to do a lot of pressure things
defensively and (on special teams). ... I'm very pleased with the
athleticism and the balance of this group."
McNeill may not have the same degree of
commitment to redshirting that Holtz possessed. He visited almost all of
the signing class announced on Wednesday and urged them to set lofty
"I challenged all of them to prepare to
start," McNeill said. "There's no entitlement here. Nobody's entitled to
anything here. ... We're not predetermining redshirts here at all. I
told each family in each home that and I meant that."
McNeill conceded that offensive linemen
generally do need a maturation period on the college level and that
skill position players are more likely to emerge earlier in their
"I am anticipating some of those guys
being able to do some things," McNeill said. "We'll make sure we're
smart in choosing those guys in such a way that they are very
The new coaching staff's Texas ties
helped reel in quarterback Shane Carden from Episcopal High in Bellaire,
TX, who led his team to a state title. Quarterback will obviously be an
important position with the departure of Patrick Pinkney, who helped the
Pirates to two straight Conference USA championships.
The future looked promising in terms of
offensive leadership with Dominique Davis, a former Boston College
quarterback, scheduled to transfer in from Fort Scott (Kansas) Community
College, but Davis did not enroll for the spring semester.
McNeill read a prepared statement when
asked about Davis's status.
"As you know, we had a (junior college)
quarterback sign a national letter of intent (NLI) in December," McNeill
stated. "The NLI was for spring, 2010. The quarterback did not enroll at
East Carolina for this spring semester. As a result, the NLI is now null
and void. The quarterback is now considered a recruit.
"With that said, NCAA regulations
prohibit any further discussions or comments about this young man."
Still, the ECU book on Davis may not be
closed. Davis has indicated through other means of communication that he
intends to join the Pirate program later. Seven new players are already
Although Davis apparently won't be on
hand to go through the learning process in spring practice, the
quarterback cupboard is far from bare. Josh Jordan played sparingly
behind Pinkney last season and rising redshirt freshman Rio Johnson
figures to get a good look.
ECU also signed Desi Brown, a former
South Stanly standout, who moved to Missouri for his senior year and led
Webster Groves to a 13-0 record and a Class 5 state championship. The
Pirates also added Eastern Alamance quarterback Lamar Ivey to the
signing class, although he may be moved to wide receiver to take
advantage of his outstanding speed.
McNeill said the coaching staff will be
looking at film and making evaluations on the field in spring practice
in the process of finding a quarterback.
As recruiting goes forward in the
McNeill era, the spread passing game and attacking defense should
attract recruits. Of the 18 signings announced on Wednesday, nine are
listed as defensive players, seven are regarded as offensive players and
two fall into the multi-purpose athlete category.
McNeill said he could see excitement,
even in the offensive linemen, when he talked to the recruits during his
home visits about the styles of play his program will utilize.
McNeill said ECU will typically play a
4-3 defense although he acknowledged the necessity for nickel and dime
defensive back packages in Conference USA.
The new coach said he felt at home in
making his whirlwind tour of visits to lock down the new class.
"I've been in coaching for 29 years and
I've been in homes in probably every state in the nation, and this was
probably the most comfortable I've been making a sales pitch," McNeill
The reason is that McNeill is an ECU
graduate and he can tell potential players first hand about the benefits
of the Pirate experience.
McNeill has continued his education
since leaving his alma mater. One thing he said he had learned was to
leave house buying decisions up to his wife, Erlene.
"I bought a house and I could reach
here to the bedroom and here to the kitchen," McNeill said. "I thought
it was a great house but that was 29 years ago and she's never let me
For the time being, McNeill is content
with his hotel accommodations in Greenville.
"If you want a new coach, let me buy a
house — because my wife will barbecue me," he said. "I will obey her
commands (on purchasing a home)."
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