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Pirate Notebook No. 458
Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Denny O'Brien

Weather, layoff not a concern for Ruff

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

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 offense.”

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.

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12/28/2010 04:26 AM

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