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Riley Upbeat about ECU Offense in 2012

Player's Coach: Riley, shown here giving his star QB Dominique Davis a post-game hug, is passionate about his offense

As most of you guys know, I recently interviewed ECU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley for an extended Q&A which is currently running on Bonesville. I always like chatting with Coach Riley because – at least at this point in his career – he is open, patient, and clearly loves what he does. His accessibility is unequaled and the guy simply lives ECU football 24/7.

He sounded really confident about the team, but was straightforward in his concerns as well. He is worried about the tackle position from a depth perspective. He is very confident in our two projected starters, but is very concerned that after those two guys, we have a great need. Perhaps that is why the staff is zeroing in on some quality JUCOs there. One thing he isnt worried about, is Quarterback.

My personal sense is that he expects it to be a dog fight in the spring and he is trying not to tip in terms of who he thinks should rise to the top. My guess is that the spring depth chart looks like this coming into summer: Carden, Wornick,  Johson, Keith. However…my hit rate is awful on predictions…so, maybe I should have just flipped a coin.

Up front, while he is concerned deeply about the tackle position, I think he has the opposite feel for the interior line. He is jacked up about Josh Clark at center. It is funny because this staff seems a little surprised about how good he is at center, but Skip and crew recruited him as a center when he first got here. Watching Josh’s performance, he is a good one and hopefully he can stay healthy. With him at center, we have two starting guards that may well be the best tandem in C-USA based on peformance in Will Simmons and Jordan Davis. Davis, as most of you will probably recall came in as a projected stud at guard, but had to be moved to left tackle out of need. With Adhem Elsawi playing so well at tackle, Davis is back at his natural position and it showed in his final few games. With Taylor Jordan able to play at a high level at each of the three positions – yes, including center – depth is not as big an issue. Add to that the Lincoln is really excited about C.J. Struyk – the legacy walk-on from West Carteret High School. Riley said that C.J. is freakishly strong and very, very smart which should offset any concerns about his height.

I found it interesting that Coach Riley stated that they were getting the blocking they wanted to be able to run the ball with authority, but aside from Reggie Bullock, the running backs were really just poorly consistent with running within the blocking scheme. It sounded to me that Lincoln believes a healthy Reggie Bullock gives us one of the best backs in CUSA with potential to be highly-productive in the running game in addition to the receiving and pass protection aspects of the job. But, after Bullock…the drop off is precipitous. Even more surprising to me was the excitement he had when mentioning that we are talking to a couple if not three running backs who he believes, if signed, could come in and challenge even Bullock for the job. And, he seemed confident that we might get one of those recruits. We have to wait and see on that one.

As you probably gathered from the article, the battle at receiver is just brutal. The top to bottom talent in this group is sick, made even more competitive with the injuries to Lance Lewis, Justin Jones and the suspension of Michael Bowman for the first game. We have some flat out amazing young talents at wide receiver. Between Andrew Bodenheimer, Justin Hardy, Justin Jones, Danny Webster, Reese Wiggins, Derrick Harris, Dayon Arrington, Mike Price, Zico Pasut, Torian Richardson, Donte Sumpter, and Antonio Cannon, their is no room for error for any of these guys in 2012 or they will find the slide down is swifter than the climb up. Save a few of the young guys, each of these guys have shown an ability to make big plays.

Riley has his favorites – mostly based on who has shown the most consistency – but he clearly is fair when it comes to PT and he indicated that this year, turnovers will most definitely be met with a reordering of the DC. My personal favorite in this group is Justin Hardy…watching that kid play, I would forget he is just a freshman. I also like Bodie and agree with Riley that he will become exponentially more important in this, his senior campaign.

I am really looking forward to this spring as there will so many good battles out there. Hopefully it will be a light spring on injuries.

Among the things Lincoln and I discussed that got chopped in the published interview were his excitement over Lance Lewis’ prospects in the April NFL draft, saying that Lance should be fully healthy and will be ready to go for whichever team should draft him. He is just a play maker and a very smooth one at that.

Lincoln also seemed excited about the new coaches coming in, though he said that even though they are already a done deal, it couldn’t divulge the names since that is Coach Ruff’s thing. He said that he is fully confident that the running backs coach will be perfect for the job.

He said that he has a deeper understanding of what his colleague Brian Mitchell was dealing with in 2010, admitting that it drives it home when it is in your shop rather than the other guy’s.

Riley also said that he really is excited to be on this staff in this city coaching for this team. He loves the passion the fan base exudes – he runs on a heavy dose of passion himself – and when pressed about what he and his former boss and mentor Mike Leach discussed he really seemed sincere when he said, “I’m not going anywhere…I love it here.” I believe him.

I’ll check back in with him after signing day and let you know how it goes.

7 comments on “Riley Upbeat about ECU Offense in 2012

  1. That was indeed a fantastic interview and thanks for the additional “411” here. Very much appreciated. I have to get this off my chest as the running game subject was broached…I’m more of a ground and pound first, I-formation type of guy so I love big, thick RBs even though we’re a spread O. H. Furr perhaps??. No offense intended to R.Bullock either (I like his heart alot).

    • Riley is jacked up about Furr…he didn’t hide that. Size, speed…could be helpful. Also, if we get Imani Cross, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the mix right away…if he can catch. I wish this offense was geared toward being able to, if needed, slow down and grind but I understand that it is such a rhythm offense that that would kill it effectively. I feel like an ability to – at times – grind it out, would help hold off pressure and hence, allow our QB to get to his 3rd and 4th reads – which are often wide open.

  2. I really enjoyed the interview. It’s the kind of in-depth coverage that compels me to read through it more than once. I was excited about his thoughts on Hunter Furr. Like Pirate r, I really like Bullock but a bit of size is not a bad thing in this game. My real concern with this offense (apart from the turnovers) is predictability. (I wondered if your question regarding stolen signals had anything to do with this predictability). What are your thoughts regarding the game day play calling?

    • It seemed to me that Lincoln in his comment about the signal calling was sort of pointing out that is good as Dominique was, he was not what is expected and typical of this offense. Reading between the lines, I think he expects one of his QBs to be the starter next year which should limit some of that predictability. It seems that Dominique was limited in his ability to progress smoothly through all reads and tended to have his mind made up pre-snap on most passes. When Texas Tech’s offense was humming, they would typically have two 1,000 yard receivers and another pushing that number…last year we did not have that at all.

      All that said…we need a running game or the better teams are going to keep stopping us. Moreover, we cannot kill ourselves with turnovers. I think that we will be a better team next season on both sides of the ball but we need, IMO, not learn our weaknesses during the season like we have the last two years..too late by then. We need to know ahead of time. I really am happy to see two veteran coaches on board now, particularly on STs.

      • Just saw this announcement about our new coaches. They seem like real strong, mature additions (I’m getting there myself!). It should be good to have some experience to complement the youth of our coaching staff.

  3. Ron, excellent job on the interview. Rudi, Ed, and the posters on HTC have nailed down most of the talking points, but I was just wondering if there was any reason as to why LR didn’t mention Richardson when you asked about those three specific young receivers? Maybe I’m reading too much into things, but I’ve heard some rumors he may be in the doghouse at the moment.

    • Thanks for dropping in Stephen…love what you do for all of us over at HTC…

      I didn’t press Lincoln on that, but it was definitely obvious that he didn’t comment. I know that Richardson is jacked up for spring ball and Lincoln didn’t elaborate on anything off the record. It may be a case where Lincoln is just more excited about the other two or maybe trying to send Torian a message about picking it up.

      What I am sure of is that none of these coaches play favorites and none of them will reward any player who is not with the program…so maybe Richardson still needs to do some more work to get on the coach’s radar screen.

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