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BAILEY'S TAKE ON PIRATE SPORTS
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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, July 26, 2011

By Brian Bailey

McNeill primed for preseason camp

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One-on-One with...
(ECU Media Relations Photos)

Bonesville features writer Ron Cherubini conducted Q&A exchanges with East Carolina offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley (left) and Pirate defensive boss Brian Mitchell (right). The net result: candid glimpses into the thinking inside the program heading into next season. Links to the interviews:

Lincoln Riley Q&A
Brian Mitchell Q&A

By Brian Bailey
©2011 Bonesville.net
All rights reserved.

I continue to be amazed at just how good East Carolina football coach Ruffin McNeill looks after his weight loss and hip surgeries during the offseason.

It has been a total transformation, and the coach deserves a lot of credit for working so hard.

Now his attention turns to football.

“This is the part you really look forward to,” said McNeill. “You go all summer, you watch film and you plan. We have all of our practices planned up until game week.”

The Pirate squad arrives for camp a week from this Thursday. The team kicks off the 2011 season in Charlotte against South Carolina on Labor Day weekend.

Most of the squad has been working out all summer under the guidance of strength and conditioning coach Jeff Connors. Some, though, are still in a waiting game.

“John Lattimore has to finish a class,” said McNeill. “JoJo Blanks has to finish a class. They may be like Lance (Lewis) who came in late last year.”

McNeill confirmed that both Chevelle Buie from Cocoa High School in Florida and Dontrill Hyman from James Kenan in our state will start their careers in junior college.

“Those guys are football players that we’ll keep an eye on,” said McNeill. “I think they’ll do well and hopefully we’ll get them back in the program.”

One look at the 2011 schedule and you realize just how difficult the task at hand is for McNeill in his second season.

The year starts at Bank of America Stadium against a South Carolina team that was picked first in the SEC’s East Division. The Gamecocks got the nod over the likes of Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

“I’m anxious about the challenge,” said McNeill. “They have a great, great football team. Coach (Steve) Spurrier is one of the best football coaches probably in the history of the game.”

The Gamecocks are led by running back Marcus Lattimore and receiver Alshon Jeffery. Lattimore and Jeffery are probably licking their chops after watching film of the Pirate defense from a year ago.

That defense is expected to be improved, but that improvement certainly won’t be in full force that first weekend in September.

McNeill says the South Carolina skill players are great, but he was even more impressed on the line.

“They have great skills on both sides of the ball,” he said. “What I’ve noticed on film is that they have great offensive and defensive line play.”

The final piece of the “preseason puzzle” comes this Saturday with the annual women’s clinic for Pirate football.

You can tell by the grin on his face that Coach McNeill really enjoys that particular day of the preseason.

“I can’t wait to get a hold of them,” McNeill laughed. “It’s 300 plus again. That’s an exciting day. It’s really our last bit before we get into the season.”

Coach McNeill says he gets a lot of feedback on the banquet circuit about the clinic.

“The ladies come up and tell me how excited they are,” he said. “I tell them that I love them but that I’m going to get after them.”

While he enjoys the women’s clinic, the second year ECU coach can’t wait to get his boys back for practice.

“I’m anxious to see how they have improved from spring,” said McNeill. “To see how they’ve come through summer workouts with Jeff (Connors) and his staff, and then to practice.”

I think we are all looking forward to seeing that.

It won’t be long now…

BB

E-mail Brian Bailey.

Brian Bailey Archives

07/26/2011 03:01 AM

 
 

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