TAKE ON PIRATE SPORTS
March 22, 2010
Retooled Ruff ready
to rework defense
BRAIN BAILEY SHOW
Monday night's Brian Bailey Show
featuring his ANNUAL SECOND CHANCE WITH
THE SWEET 16 CONTEST.
Eastern North Carolina's
sports radio call-in show airs each Monday
night at 7 p.m. on Pirate Radio 1250 and
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Second-year East Carolina
football coach Ruffin McNeill just looks like he feels better.
Don’t get me wrong. Coach
McNeill usually always greets the media with a joke and a smile, even
after a loss from the week before.
This time, though,
something was different. The coach is moving around better. He’s lost a
bunch of weight after his surgery, though he didn’t say exactly how
much. He has told me in the past that he wouldn’t get on the scales, but
that he would follow his advisor’s plan.
The plan is working.
McNeill will get through spring football and then have his hip
"It's one day at a time
and making sure I follow the doctors' orders,” McNeill told the media at
his news conference to preview the spring season (Select
Press Conference Audio Clip...). “I work hard and do what
they tell me to do. I feel better. My diet is very limited and strict.
"I'm so stubborn and hard
headed that I'll stay by it. It will not be a flash in the pan for me.
I'm very serious about the change. I won't waver. It has been an
adjustment and challenge. It's probably been one of the most challenging
things of my life. At the same time, I knew it was something I needed to
Much of Monday’s presser
dealt with the changes for the defense. East Carolina had one of the
worst defensive performances on record last year, and McNeill knows that
he has to find a fix. It won’t be a quick fix, or a “microwave” solution
as the coach calls it.
The first order of
business this spring is to install a new defense. The Pirates will
change from the 4-3 to a 3-4. That change began with day one of spring
“We'll be able to get the
base and thought processes in during the spring,” explained McNeill.
“The new guys who join in the fall will be able to come in and hit the
ground running. I'm looking forward to the introduction this spring and
for the new guys to come in later.”
While some on the outside
might think that this will be a huge transition, McNeill thinks
"It's not as big of a deal
as you might think," he said. "We have film that we'll take during the
spring and watch throughout the summer. We also have our defensive book
ready to go. We already mapped out a lot of adjustments as we've been
preparing to make this switch for two or three months. We're ready for
the spring and the new players to arrive."
On the flipside, the
Pirates welcome quarterback Dominique Davis back to the huddle for one
more season. Even though the offense lost some punch with graduations,
the fact that Davis returns to lead the group is a huge plus.
Add in the fact that Davis
didn’t really start last season until August, and the comfort level for
McNeill and his signal caller only grows.
"The quarterback situation
is one we feel very good about with the five guys we have,” said
McNeill. “Dominique Davis I feel has established himself as one of the
best in the country and league. He has done a great job in the offseason
working. I've talked to (strength and conditioning) Coach (Jeff) Connors
and he says Dominique has been a guy who has really stepped up. Coach
Connors has to back Dominique off, which is what you want from your
The depth at quarterback
is also better, and McNeill says that’s one of the things he looks
forward to watching this spring.
"Just like last year, Brad
Wornick and Rio Johnson will join Dominique, as well as Shane Carden and
Cody Keith, who are both on campus. It'll be fun to watch. That position
I feel very good about," he said.
Spring football is about
fundamentals. It’s the last chance the coaches really get to work with
the players until camp opens in August. The spring practices lead up to
the spring game, which is always a special occasion at East Carolina as
a part of “The Great Pirate Purple-Gold Pigskin Pig-out Party.”
McNeill knows that
everyone wants to get a taste of football with their bar-b-cue. He also
knows that the spring game is one of the precious few chances the teams
gets to work together with the coaches.
“We'll look at our depth
and if we can divide up and go Purple-Gold then we will,” McNeill said.
“I want to get a work day. It's a spring game but, at the same time in
my mind, it's the 15th day of work. It'll be a game atmosphere of
offense versus defense. Special teams will be limited with what we do.
It'll be a full-fledged field deal. We don't know if we'll divide teams
up yet due to depth."
Footballs flying in the
springtime. It takes us one step closer to August and the start of camp
and the 2011 football season.
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