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.
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!