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Gotta give Ruff Props for Making a very Hard Decision…the next decision could define his tenure

Look…there are very few things more admirable than loyalty and so it was with a heavy heart that I heard the news about Coach Ruff letting Brian Mitchell go. It was necessary, but a very hard move for our HC who demands loyalty of his players. I know the decision was not an easy one, but there was no getting around the fact that the defense was in trouble. Ruff grew up a bit today, as a head coach IMO, no disrespect intended. Timing was about right, clear the holidays, get the program headed on the 2013 flight plan. Make a move.

hud 2
Hud would be great to have back on campus and would make a quick turn with the defensive talent he has in hand.

Say it again, Sam, this was a very important move in many ways. The defense has been awful since Ruff arrived and the trend was not getting better. Add to that, rumblings from the jump, that players had a hard time connecting with Coach Mitchell…remember the Steve Spence debacle?

More importantly, Coach Ruff had brought with him such a young staff and then gave this young group a lot of freedom to run their shops. That is fine, but not ideal in Greenville, particularly with Ruff being new to the HC gig. This move was very much the stuff that HC’s must be able to do. On the offensive side, we are seeing Coach Riley make some amazing adjustments – player wise, schematically, and more in-game and half-time stuff than before. He is maturing and I hold to the notion that he is a brilliant coach in the making. Glad he is on board. But, we love our defense here and what was on the field was painful and frankly, when you have an offense putting 30 to 4o points on the board, the defense shouldn’t be a liability. You should win a bunch more than you lose. Since Ruff’s arrival, our defense has actually had games where we felt like forcing a single punt was a triumph, where we saw rushing numbers against us that look like newspaper misprints, player turnover that left you scratching your head, and confusion on the field that was beyond obvious.

So, alas, Coach Ruff made a statement. Not sure if there will be other statements made on that side of the ball. In reality, if we are going to pursue a good DC, then he should have say in his staff, so perhaps others will go. I like Coach Yellock a lot and had high hopes for Coach Wiley, who may have been handcuffed by Coach Mitchell. I am not convinced that Wiley isn’t a good candidate himself.

So, what Coach Ruff does now is equally important and will be equally revealing about where he is as a HC. In fact, this hire is probably what will define Ruff’s future at ECU. A good hire – fortified by a strategy that allows the new coach to thrive – could be just what the doctor ordered for a program returning a lot of players and likely to be playing on a bigger stage in 2013. But, there are questions. Will Coach Ruff be willing to make a hire of a guy who could rival his own popularity? Would he hire a guy and give him full range of control on the defensive side? Will we recruit defensively what is needed? Can we even pay for the right type of guy? Is Coach Ruff willing to return ECU’s brand to a Defensive stalwart where offense is not the king of the roost? Can he fill the spot quickly enough to have a solid direction in place by spring wherein the new guy can understand his personnel in time to make significant changes? Lots of questions…so what – or who – is the answer?

The big name that is already on the tip of everyone’s tongues is former ECU Defensive Coordinator Greg Hudson. Hud – as he is lovingly called – is not going to be the DC at FSU and as such, he will surely look to move on. There were already rumors floating around saying that he is interested in a return to ECU. A return to ECU may be a good move and it isn’t without some strategy behind it. The front seven has a lot of potential and Hud knows it. He was universally loved in Greenville and he had a knack for creating stars out of mid-level recruits. Imagine him with Jeff Connors now in place. Nice picture.

My only worry about Hud is that he was SO popular in Greenville, it might be a liability for Ruff. Hopefully that will not be a factor. But, Hudson to me, represents the level of coach we need to pursue. We do not need a great potential young assistant. We need a guy who has done it before. Find the money somewhere, pay the man and get out of his way. But there are some other good candidates, IMO.

One guy I really like, is current Bowling Green DC Mike Elko. He has a great track record already and connects well with his players. His BG defenses have been stellar and he is not a one-trick pony – front seven vs. back seven type of thing. And, he is a guy whose defenses create turnovers and stuff opponents when it is all on the line. You have to think we could lure him out of the MAC to go to the new BE.

Also, another guy I love is Tyrone Nix, who we should try to lure from Middle Tennessee. I know he is very tight with Rick Stockstill, but still, he would be a good one to pursue IMO. And maybe we can play the Big East – or whatever it is called – card. He is a fantastic recruiter and can take average defensive guys and turn them into stars, particularly on the hard-to man defensive line.

Doubt we could get him, but Kevin Steele is available. I know he was forced out of Clemson and will probably land somewhere high profile pretty quick, he is a big name with deep recruiting roots in our sweet spot (South Carolina/Georgia/Florida). Ditto for Tom Bradley – probably too old and there are the relationships with Jerry Sandusky, but man were his Penn State defenses awesome.

Perhaps take a flyer on trying to lure a guy like Nick Toth, first year coordinator at Fresno State who engineered a ridiculous turnaround of that defense in one season. He spent 2005 as a coach at Elon, is an east coast guy and could be a good one. Another coach who preaches turnovers.

Another unknown out there is Lance Guidry who is a solid DC, though he has baggage with a DWI arrest this year. He was ousted at Western Kentucky as Bobby Petrino came in and will hire new staff. Very good defense at Western Kentucky and did so against good competition. Not sure if North Carolina is a region he would want to come, but I believe he is available if Ruff felt he was of good enough character.

Saw where former UNC coach John Bunting was also mentioned as inquiring…that wouldn’t be a bad hire either, though I don’t see that happening.

I would be so happy if Hud returns (and brings veteran secondary coach Rick Smith with him). Wouldn’t mind seeing Steve Shankweiler back in town, too…imagine his veteran savvy and five returning OL starters to work with. Wow. I hope the rumors for Hud are true. In my book, you can always come home again.

Would love to hear any other names that you guys are tossing about tonight in thought.

Cannot wait to see how this shakes out.

Go Pirates, Go!

16 comments on “Gotta give Ruff Props for Making a very Hard Decision…the next decision could define his tenure

  1. I watched the 11 o’clock broadcast and Brian Bailey did report that Hudson was in the hunt for a DC job and had expressed that interest through a few sources at ECU. He told Bailey via text message that he wants a DC job and is committed to finding the best place for his family… If I remember, his family loved the area, so I take that to mean he’s interested in the job… I’m sure Skip is after him too.. He really missed him down in Tampa.. Unfortunately for Skip Greenville beats anywhere in Louisiana hands-down for a family. I will give my gift certificate to drive a real race car back to Santa and ask instead for Greg Hudson to be back as DC! Well, maybe I better think about that one… but anyway, you get the point.. I REALLLLLY want Coach Hud back!!.

    • Right there with you Chris!!

      That gift sounds pretty rockin’ BTW…you’ll have to let me know how that experience was.


  2. oh, about Hud being a liability for Coach Ruff… Just my opinion is I don’t think so… A bit of a different scenario, but when the Steelers hired Tomlin as HC a few years back, he was a defensive guy but instead of bringing his own guy in with a scheme he was familiar with and had been successful with, he kept Dick Lebeau who was a candidate for the job and was loved by everyone in Steeler nation… Keeping Lebeau was the best move he could have made.. you have to choose to be secure in your own abilities and make the decisions that best help the football team… Coach Hud is a proven guy in this environment.. if he’s available, we’d be crazy not to bring him in IMO…

    • He is the guy I want…I hope it is a non-starter with Coach Ruff…but it is a consideration.

      Would love to see Hud here again.

  3. Blackbeard's Ghost

    Letting someone go is always tough, but you nailed it with Coach Ruff making a tough decision and “growing” in the process of doing so. This leads me to believe that Ruff does have what it takes to not just be the leader of this football program, but maybe the coach this university has been looking for so long that can bring us to that proverbial “next level”. (Famous last words of dearly departed Bill Lewis.)

    I dont want to get to far ahead of myself but; RC is it possible that Coach Ruff could be the one to possibly bring this program into a national spotlight in the near future?

    Enjoyed the read and Cheers!!

    • Ahoy BBG…perhaps Ruff is the Coach we are all hoping him to be. He still has something to prove – given the lack of any eye opening wins to date.

      That said, this move underscores that he really wants to be the man at ECU and I don’t think he is motivated by a paycheck. He wants to do his university proud, IMO.

      For me, he has to demonstrate that he can be ahead of the curve rather than so reactive. When he starts to proactively adjust the program (with results), I will feel more comfortable.

      But, I am with you in hoping that he is the answer at ECU.

      Cheers back at you!

  4. No Quarter

    Three cheers for Coach Ruff, even though I know this was tough for him. Hopefully, Coach Mitchell made it easy for him and I hope CM lands somewhere else pretty quick. I think in time CM will be a good coach, the problem is we don’t have time. We have to get it done now. Hud would be a great addition for many reasons. Knowledge of the area, university, and facilities, recruiting, and an overall understanding of Pirate Nation, which I think is very important. I think that would be the right move, unless a name popped up that we couldn’t turn down.

    I agree with you that Coach Ruff grew up. I wasn’t sure he could pull the trigger on CM so quick. But I do give him props for doing so.

    Go Pirates!!!!!

  5. it is very generous of you to talk of Ruffs loyalty to BM but that should be second to his loyalty to ECU. the real truth is, no one would have given Ruff a chance to be hc except ECU. Ruff should have been on top of this situation from the very beginning , instead ECU became an easy win for average teams…todays football schools are positioning themselves for better conference affiliation…that is why Boise and TCU are in such demand and no one is interested in ECU…as for the money to pay good coaches, multiply the empty seats in the stadium times the ticket price and you can pay alot of good salaries. if you not looking to move forward you are going to be left behind. it has not been many years ago that ECU was on par with Louisville , Cincinnati and Rutgers…the difference is committment and vision. we need to improve both at ECU.

    • hi rc…totally agree on priorities as you have stated.

      Pointing out Cincy is a good comparison as they were among the dregs of football, headed in the wrong direction and then they got serious about it. We do need the improvements you mention.

      As always, thanks for your commentary rc…always appreciated.

  6. DC Pirate 28

    Ron: Nice article. The only thing craizer than the conference alignment issue is the turnover of coaches. Each year you play the max of 13 games and half of the teams in this country will not win. When you think about it plenty can go wrong and you dont have a great deal of time to show what you can do. That being said this move had to be made. The popular choice among the faithful seems to be Coach Hud. That brings up the question why was he not offered the HC position all along or was he? I dont know. My first memory of Skip was that of him saying he could not win with the talent we had. He then produced the best DLine in the history of the program that averaged 6-4 298 with additional depth. He left Ruff with a DLine of 6-2 248 and many of those were injured making the line even smaller. The D finished 119 out 120 that year and if you recall TH sent out many a memo trying to defend the unit and I would agree there was nothing that could have been done as the cubbard was bare. Here we sit though several seasons later and we had to pull DBs out of the JUCO ranks just to put bodies on the field. This to me is inexcuseable and shows issues within our recruiting that we did not have bodies ready to step in. They say the DL is the toughest position to fill but there should be plenty of DBs available to us in a pass happy conference. Bottom line you cant win without talent. I think recruiting has become another pain as you get a kid to commit only to have them sign with another school once signing day rolls around. Last year I think Ruff and the staff made a huge mistake announcing that we were in the running for plenty of elite players only to have them sign with other schools. Why would you want to fire up your fanbase only to dissapoint them once the kid goes elsewhere. Bottom line to me we need a guy with a plan to sign players that fit his vision. Seems to me we throw a bunch of paper out there hoping something sticks then try to make them into something.


    • Hey DCP28…totally agree with your points here.

      I really think that Ruff will be defining his tenure with this DC hire.

      Hope the right guy comes in here.

  7. Pharma, have you heard anymore on dc hire? if so please share with us. thanks!

    • Hi rc…

      i got nothing right now. very quiet on my channels.

      I see someone on BB touted to know a great deal about Hudson’s situation but I cannot even get any names yet other than Hudson.

      If i get anything i can share i will.

  8. Pharma, i don’t have a lot confidence in this hc in hiring the right dc for the pirates. the hc coach has to be on top of every aspect concerning the team, that is the reason you hire a hc. from the end of the bowl game up to the firing of dc, Ruff was stating that he was satisfied with the improvement on the defense….i believe pressure from the pirate nation was the only reason the dc was fired. no news on the candidates for this position is troubling…. fans and supporters need to see names of the potential coaches to fill the position….it is so hard to trust this coach based on the past three years…if he was a proven winner, it would be totally different…so…here we are waiting in the dark…

    • See my new post rc…the bigger issue isn’t the DC…right? That said, I like the hire…for the reasons I state.

      Will it matter? The program’s success depends on the HC, no?

      I think Rick can make a big, positive impact…if given the latitude to do so.

      We shall see.


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