Coach Ruffin McNeill
at Monday's Press
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WASHINGTON, DC — As Old Man Winter left
an icy path in its wake throughout much of North Carolina, East Carolina
continued its Military Bowl preparations in the nation's capital. Though
the snow accumulation wasn't nearly as severe in Washington, there was
no escaping the winter chill for the Pirates.
As head coach Ruffin McNeill observed a
midday practice, he said that the frosty conditions have not derailed
ECU from its goal of claiming a seventh victory. He also refuted the
notion that frigid temperatures might present a major obstacle for the
Pirates' fast-paced offense.
Likewise, McNeill doesn't believe the
lengthy layoff — ECU hasn't played in over a month — will pose a problem
for the Pirates' offensive rhythm.
“During the layoff, we had practices
phased in,” McNeill said. “We had workouts, lifting and running, and
seven on seven passing drills.
“We practiced twice that first week
after the SMU game. During that time, we had an opportunity to pass the
ball around and really run our offense. We pretty much followed the same
format we did when we were at Texas Tech. I feel good about our
You can certainly understand why. North
Carolina was the only team to hold ECU under 27 points this fall, and
the Pirates scored 35 or more in nine of their 12 games.
In the season opener against a very a
good Tulsa squad, the Pirates erupted for 51 points despite playing
their first game in the new system and with a new quarterback in the
huddle. So based on precedence alone, there is plenty of reason to
expect ECU to have a productive afternoon against the Terps.
It also helps that the Pirates' offense
likely won't face anything it hasn't already seen this season.
“It's a similar defensive package as
what North Carolina State runs,” McNeill said. “By that, I mean you'll
see some odd man fronts, where there is some backend movement and zone
blitzing behind it. You'll see some four man fronts as well.
“This offense has faced almost
everything that you can dish at it, with the different packages,
coverages, and blitz concepts that most teams have. Maryland has great
personnel, and they did a great job this year. We know we are facing a
very talented group.”
The Pirates will counter a talented
defense with plenty of offensive skill, and that extends much further
than the passing game. While much of ECU's offensive success has been
attributed to the breakout performance by quarterback Dominique Davis,
along with receivers Dwayne Harris and Lance Lewis, the Pirates have had
plenty of help from a capable running game.
In an offensive system widely known for
its pass-first philosophy, running backs Jonathan Williams and Giavanni
Ruffin have enjoyed productive campaigns in the ECU backfield.
First-year offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, a prodigy of Mike
Leach's Air Raid attack, hasn't been shy about utilizing them.
“Lincoln has always had that run
emphasis, which I like,” McNeill said. “Jonathan and Giavanni have done
a good job of helping us run the football and establishing our run
concepts. The offensive line has done a magnificent job up front
blocking and translating, and really transferring from the previous
package under Coach (Skip) Holtz to what we run now.
“The running game has really helped us.
We believe in it and really have a lot of confidence in it as well.”
With cold temperatures awaiting the
Pirates on Wednesday, both Williams and Ruffin should get their share of
opportunities. And their coach doesn't expect them, or the rest of this
offense, to miss a beat.