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View from the 'ville
Thursday, June 3, 2010

By Al Myatt

McGuire's backs will be busy

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Clay McGuire
(ECU SID image)


Myatt: McGuire's backs will be busy
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The assumption could be made that a running backs coach in East Carolina's new spread offense might be about as busy as the Maytag repair man in those old television commercials.

Clay McGuire, who holds that position on Ruffin McNeill's new staff, insists that's not the case. McGuire knows what's expected from first hand experience as a former back at Texas Tech who progressed to coach his old position for the Red Raiders last season.

"That's a huge misconception by a lot of people," McGuire said. "I am the running backs coach. I'm kind of biased to 'em but when you really look at it, it's the X factor position. ... If we don't do our part in the run game and the screen game and in the passing game — it's kind of built off everybody else."

McGuire has been busy personally and professionally. He taught and learned personnel in spring practice. He's been on the road establishing recruiting contacts in the southeastern portion of the state, including Fayetteville and Wilmington, as well as eastern South Carolina. McGuire's wife, Jeri, recently gave birth to the couple's second daughter, Addie. Her sister, Jorja, is two years old.

McGuire's running backs will be busy, too.

"The running backs really touch the ball 45 percent of the time," McGuire said. "We get it to five different skill positions — four receivers and a running back. The running back touches it 45 percent of the time — running the ball or catching it in the passing game."

Texas Tech running back Baron Batch was a case in point in a 41-31 win over Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl when McNeill was coaching the Red Raiders on an interim basis. Batch had 22 rushes for 100 yards in the bowl game and six catches for 85 yards. Batch had scoring runs of three and 13 yards.

The Red Raiders also played a pair of backup running backs, Eric Stephens and Harrison Jeffers. Stephens had four rushes and three catches. Jeffers had one carry and two receptions. The trio of running backs touched the ball on 38 of Texas Tech's 85 offensive snaps, 44.7 percent of the Red Raiders' plays.

Spread offenses tend to spread defenses as well, creating room for running backs in the process.

"That's what I tell my guys," McGuire said. "Probably 70 percent of the time, they're going to get the ball in some kind of space. They're going to be in the open field. It's on them to make the unblocked guy miss. Our guys are going to have a lot of opportunities to make plays and be good space guys. If they can do that, they've got a chance to pile up a lot of yards."

Senior Jonathan Williams came out of spring practice as ECU's No. 1 running back. Williams ran nine times in the spring game for 45 yards.

Williams is listed at 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds. The three backs the Red Raiders used in the Alamo Bowl were shorter. Batch is 5-11, Jeffers is 5-9 and Stephens is 5-8.

"He did very well," McGuire said of Williams' spring performance. "At Tech, the best football players for that position were usually smaller backs. We just happen to come in here and we've got a couple of big guys here in this offense right now. I'm excited to see what we can do in this offense with a big guy back there.

"Jon's a little bit bigger than what we had at Texas Tech but he's about the same speed as the guy we played with last year. He's got a chance to do some really big things this year."

Michael Dobson (6-0, 185) came out of spring practice as the No. 2 back on the Pirates' depth chart. Dobson carried six times for 36 yards in the spring game. Speedy Alex Owah had five carries for 31 yards.

"Mike is a heck of an athlete," McGuire said. "He's just one of those guys who came from a small school and he was good at everything he did. He's one of, if not the most coachable kid we had. He really took to the system. He picked everything up and had a really good spring. He was very consistent.

"He's going to be a redshirt freshman. The sky's the limit for him 'cause he's got good speed, good size. He can be a guy who comes in and really does some good stuff over a career."

Contest produced kicker

McGuire realizes that other backs could emerge. When he was coaching special teams at Texas Tech, the program found a field goal kicker from a contest in which a student booted a 30-yarder to win free rent. The Red Raiders had graduated an outstanding kicker the previous season.

"We went out and recruited a kid and kind of put our money and all of our eggs in one basket for this kid to be the starter and the guy," McGuire said. "It just wasn't working out and we tried just about everything as far as PATs and field goals.

"One of the townhomes always had a kick for free rent between the third quarter and the fourth quarter at the games there in Lubbock. This kid comes out there and one steps it and just blasts it right through the uprights.

"Immediately, Coach (Mike) Leach just didn't care how the game was going on. He wanted that kid. He wanted to see that kid. He wanted to talk to that kid. He had some people chase him up the tunnel where they were taking him off the field and bring him back down there.

"He asked the kid if he would come by Monday, and see if he would be interested in walking on and he was. Two or three weeks later the kicking duties really weren't solid and we couldn't figure out how we were going to fix this problem. We said, 'All right, let's give the guy in the stands a shot.' "

The free rent winner, Matt Williams, got his debut at Kansas.

"I think we were 7-0 at the time and Kansas was 6-1," McGuire said. "They were No. 16 in the country and we were playing down there at their place. He hit nine of nine on PATs that day. It ended up on the season, he only missed one field goal and he still hasn't missed a PAT."

A decade ago

East Carolina capped the 2000 season with a 40-27 win over Texas Tech in the Bowl in Houston. The Pirates jumped out to a 34-0 lead before Red Raiders quarterback Kliff Kingsbury threw four touchdown passes in a comeback bid.

McGuire was a redshirt freshman at the time.

"They put a pretty good whupping on us," McGuire said. "I tell you what... they had some pretty good players on that team. ... David Garrard was on that team. They had a punt returner. His name might have been Stokes."

That, of course, was Keith Stokes, who had a 71-yard punt return for a score in the first quarter at the Astrodome. Stokes, incidentally, is playing in the American Indoor Football Association at the moment with the Harrisburg (PA) Stampede. Stokes caught three touchdowns passes and returned a missed field goal 48 yards for a score in a 64-28 win over the homestanding Fayetteville (NC) Guard last Saturday night.

Stokes played in the Canadian Football League and said he served as a coach for a French team in the European Football League last year.

Lessons from Leach

McGuire played 45 games at H-back in Leach's system at Texas Tech and progressed following his career from the program's video department to graduate assistant and then to fulltime assistant. He earned his degree in history from Texas Tech in 2004 and received his master's degree in secondary education in 2007.

Although Leach's career in Lubbock ended in controversy for the alleged mistreatment of receiver Adam James, McGuire counts the former Red Raiders coach as a big influence.

"One thing he always preached to us is be good at what you do," McGuire said. "Whatever you do, be great at it. It's all about executing. It's not about what the opponent does to you. As long as you can execute what you do, it doesn't matter what they do.

"That's what we did at Texas Tech. He kept everything really simple. We got really good at it. We kind of became a machine. That's what we're going to bring to East Carolina. We're going to come in here. We're going to do what we do. We're going to get really good at it.

"When we do get really good at it, we're going to be able to win a lot of games. We're set up really good right here at East Carolina. We've got great athletes here. It's a great place to recruit. It's a great school to go to. We can keep building on what's been built here in the past and we're going to take this program to another level.

"That's what we're here to do and that's what we intend to do."

Big Daddy Ruff

McGuire has great respect for McNeill, a former Pirate player, who wants the best for his alma mater.

"If you just meet him, he's special," McGuire said. "He's a genuine, great guy. He's one of the best people you'll ever be around. A lot of people can put on a front, a show for everybody, this and that, but you meet Coach Ruff and it's not fake.

"You know immediately, within the first five minutes, everything he is is what he is. There's nothing fake about him and he's a special person. Everyone of us here followed him all the way out to East Carolina. We're really happy to be here and we don't want to leave.

"This is the guy that we want to work for as long as we possibly can. We love him like a father. It won't be long to see that the players love him the same way his assistants do. That will carry over into recruiting and everything else.

"He's a great guy. You won't find a better person in the world. We're excited to be here and we're going to do everything on our part not to let him down. That trickles from us down to the team and from the team, hopefully, into the recruiting and to the town."

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08/06/2010 01:56 AM


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