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July 18, 2013If you're looking for a team outside of Lubbock to cheer for, an obvious answer is East Carolina.
The Pirates are about to enter their fourth season with former Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill and it seems the two programs are going to be linked for the considerable future.
But it's not just McNeill in Greenville, N.C.
Lincoln Riley, Brandon Jones, Dave Nichol and Duane Price are on the East Carolina staff and all are Tech graduates. They're all still Red Raider fans, too.
"Kliff (Kingsbury) is going to do wonderful there," NcNeill told Chris Level and Brian Hanni and the Lubbock radio show "Tech Talk" on Double T 104.3 FM. "I've always thought a lot of Kliff since the first day I met him. He was our quarterback when we first arrived and he's just always had that personality. He's got 'it.' People overuse that word sometimes, but Kliff's got it.
"It's not similar, it's the same situation I'm in at East Carolina. They have a guy who can go out and recruiting and go, 'Hey, look I played here. I understand the history, the tradition, the passion, the pride.' You've got a staff full of Red Raiders as well."
McNeill arrived in Lubbock as part of Mike Leach's inaugural staff in 2000 and served as the linebackers coach. He was promoted to assistant head coach in 2003 and then defensive coordinator immediately after a dreadful performance at Oklahoma State in 2007.
With McNeill as the defensive coordinator, Tech made a respectable run in 2007 and the defense was set in prime position for a legitimate run at the Big 12 Championship in 2008 and another nice crop of players in 2009.
McNeill also was the head coach at Tech albeit for just one game in the wake of Leach's termination. That game was an emotional win against Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl.
Riley was the standalone offensive coordinator for that bowl game and coached the offense out to 579 total yards.
Tech opted to hire Tommy Tuberville in favor of McNeill for the head coaching job full-time, but East Carolina jumped at the chance to hire its own former standout defensive back and North Carolina native after he was let go in the coaching shuffle.
From there, McNeill hired Riley as his own offensive coordinator and the dynamic duo from the Alamo Bowl have put the Pirates in two bowl games in three seasons. East Carolina has seen enough to extend McNeill's coaching contract three seasons beyond the initial expiration date of 2014.
"We knew we were going to get an extension," McNeill told Level and Hanni. "That wasn't a problem. But to be able to say we'll here helps in recruiting and helps staff continuity. Those are two important things."
As for Riley, he's doing his own things to adapt Tech's old offense to the ever changing game.
"He's done a great job," McNeill told Level and Hanni. "He's done a great job. We're still throwing. We get in four-wides and spread it out all over the field, but Lincoln's added his own flavor to it which is something I told him to do. A little bit more run game, similar to what Kliff does and did to Texas A&M."
McNeill might be best remembered as a Tech cheerleader on the sidelines as much as a defensive coach. He had so much passion on game days and it was contagious to the fans sitting in the rows closest to the Red Raiders' sideline.
He's still leaping and yelling for the Red Raiders some 1,500 miles away.
"Tell all the people in Lubbock I said hello," McNeill said directly to Level, "and good luck Kliff all the staff. I know they'll do well this year and I look forward to following Kliff."
To listen to McNeill's full interview on Double T 104.3 FM, click here.
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