(ECU SID Photo)
Why did John Wiley leave his post as
defensive coordinator at Appalachian State, a football championship
subdivision power, to coach linebackers and become associate head coach
at East Carolina?
"That question has been posed to me on
numerous occasions," Wiley said during a stop on the recruiting trail on
Wednesday. "Appalachian is a great place and Coach (Jerry) Moore is a
great man. The root of the answer lies with Ruffin McNeill as a person
and football coach.
"Our paths crossed 20 years ago and we
planned to work together again. He got the opportunity at East
McNeill, an ECU alumnus who became head
coach of the Pirates in January, and Wiley worked together on the staff
at Appalachian in 1990. Wiley helped the Mountaineers win national
championships in the FCS playoffs in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
"John has been around a lot of success
and that's not by coincidence," McNeill said when his hiring of Wiley,
48, was announced. "I was impressed with his manner and standing in the
profession when we coached together, and his reputation has only
continued to prosper from there. He's a great addition to our program,
undoubtedly one of the people we need on our bus."
Wiley's wife, the former Kelly Ponder,
is from Raleigh. The Wileys have three children. Daughter Megan is a
freshman at Appalachian. Sons Jax and Luke are 11 and nine years old.
"Having grandmother an hour and 20
minutes away (in Raleigh) was another influential factor," Wiley said.
"Also on the plus side was that East Carolina is in the UNC system as
far as retirement and benefits are concerned."
Wiley spent his youth on the Gulf Coast
of Texas and Greenville's proximity to the ocean was another welcomed
"I'd been up on the mountain for 20
years and I was kind of anxious to get back to flat land and water,"
Wiley said. "I've been in the state so long that I also was aware of
East Carolina's rabid following. I knew they had been successful and I
knew it was a good school. Other than leaving Appalachian State and my
good friends there, everything else made it an easy move."
Wiley's role as associate head coach of
the Pirates might be compared to the relatively low profile of being
"I'm learning day by day about what the
position involves," Wiley said. "If anything does happen to the head
coach there is a guy next in charge kind of thing. But it's nothing
really specific. It's as much an honor as anything else.
"I may be called on to stand in for
Ruff on some speaking assignments if he has other responsibilities. I
really just serve at the pleasure of the head coach."
The linebacker situation
Wiley spent spring practice trying to
get a handle on the personnel at the Mike (middle), Sam (strong side)
and Will (weak side) linebacking spots and how that group will fit into
the Pirates' new overall defensive scheme.
Gone from the linebacking corps of
ECU's second straight Conference USA championship team are tackling
leaders such as Nick Johnson, Jeremy Chambliss and Chris Mattocks.
Matt Thompson, who started two games
last season at outside linebacker against Southern Methodist and Rice,
and Dustin Linebeck, who also made a start at an outside backer against
the Owls, comprise the extent of the returning starters in Wiley's
Junior Steve Spence was moved to middle
linebacker in the spring.
"He responded extremely well," Wiley
said. "He's a talented player. He should come into the preseason at
about 230 pounds. He should match up well in our coverage schemes and
Another traveled player in terms of
previous positions, senior Melvin Patterson, is projected to back up
Spence at the middle spot.
"He made plays and added excitement,"
Wiley said of Patterson's spring performance."
Redshirt freshman Ty Holmes also is in
the mix at middle linebacker, according to the post spring depth chart.
The Pirates moved senior Wes Pittman from safety to strongside
"He's played in space," Wiley said.
"With the spread offenses that we'll face that guy has to play in space.
He'll be lined up over slot receivers and rush off the edge in pass
situations. He has a little more speed that will help him in those
Linebeck is projected to start his
senior season at the weakside spot.
"He's played significant time for the
previous staff," Wiley said. "He's experienced and he runs well."
Despite missing spring due to a
shoulder ailment, Cliff Perryman is expected to contribute at the
weakside position. Generally speaking, Wiley said his group had a
"The guys caught on pretty well," he
said. "They got the terminology and they got a grasp of the matchup zone
coverage as well as the blitz stuff. ... These kids will run to the
ball, which was one thing we harped on all spring long and they're not
afraid to work hard."
The defensive line was a team strength
last season and although losses on the front were considerable, Wiley
said replacements have considerable potential. The talent of Linval
Joseph, Jay Ross, C.J. Wilson and Scotty Robinson made everybody's job
behind them much easier.
"We've got talented guys up front,"
Wiley said. "They're just not experienced."
Wiley was building recruiting
relationships at high schools in the tidewater Virginia area on
Wednesday. He has another week on the road recruiting before returning
"First off, Coach McNeill put out a
mandate that we get into every high school in North Carolina," Wiley
said. "Everybody (on staff) has got an area in the state."
Wiley is responsible for the northeast
quadrant of North Carolina, an area that extends west to Nash County
from ECU, north to Virginia from that point and east of Greenville to
Manteo. From there he works north into Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Suffolk
and Chesapeake, VA. The Pirates will work especially hard to keep
players from leaving the region.
"We believe we should make it hard for
a kid east of I-95 not to want to come to East Carolina," Wiley said.
"There are a lot of small schools in that area but what we've discovered
is that there also are a lot of talented football players.
"The previous staff did a great job of
getting talented defensive front people and we're targeting along those
same lines. At linebacker, we're probably looking for a little bit
longer guys with more speed because of the pressure and coverage stuff
that we want to do.
"At safety, we're looking for big, fast
players, like everybody else."
Former Pirate Marc Yellock, who is
McNeill's defensive tackles coach, will recruit an area adjoining
Wiley's that includes Hampton and Newport News, VA, and the area up to
"Virginia Tech has built its program on
the back of the Tidewater area and that hasn't gone unnoticed," Wiley
said. "Everybody sends recruiters there. There are a lot of good
football players over there."
Game plans on the agenda
When Wiley and fellow staff members
return to the football offices from recruiting week after next, one of
the focal points will be formulating game plans for ECU's first three
opponents of the 2010 season — Tulsa, Marshall and Virginia Tech. The
Pirate players will be involved in summer workouts with strength coach
"We'll make a dry run at game plans,"
Wiley said. "We'll put stuff in the computer and get it broken down.
We'll also include Navy (ninth game, Nov. 6) because they're using an
offense (triple option) we won't see."
After hosting several camps in June,
the ECU coaches will get a break before convening to prepare for
Plans for free time
Wiley's family will move from Boone
when his boys complete their school year. The linebackers coach took a
drive to Atlantic Beach on a Sunday during spring practice and he plans
to visit more as down time from coaching responsibilities permits.
"We'll take every opportunity to
explore Atlantic Beach and the Outer Banks," Wiley said. "I like to play
ball with those two boys. We're pushed so much in this profession, you
really want to have time with your family when you have a break.
"I'm a fitness guy. I like to run and
play racquetball. It will be football and family. I'll get to the beach
when I can."