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View from the 'ville
Thursday, May 13, 2010

By Al Myatt

Wiley descends from mountain to help Ruff

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

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 Carolina."

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 change.

"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 Vice President.

"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 group.

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 blitz packages."

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 linebacker.

"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 situations."

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 productive spring.

"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."

Recruiting responsibilities

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 to Greenville.

"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 Washington, DC.

"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 Mike Golden.

"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 preseason practice.

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."

E-mail Al Myatt

Al Myatt Archives

05/13/2010 08:16 AM


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