Coaches Corner: Rick Smith

Photo by Kat Jessick

Inside ECU Sports caught up with defensive coordinator Rick Smith after practice on Sunday to discuss the loss to Tulane and the approaching Southern Miss game.

Q: How did the game plan change against Tulane when you figured out QB Nick Montana wasn't playing?

A: We felt like, before the game, we might get more quarterback read and option read, but we didn't. They basically did the same thing that they've been doing with him. I thought the kid played really well. They threw some more slants than normal, which is the quick throws to help him a little bit. Basically, it was the same. We didn't have to change the game plan because he was in there. We pretty much stayed with what we had planned on doing.

Q: It seems like, win or lose, one of the most consistent things is the rush defense. What are your thoughts on that?

A: We did extremely well against the rush. We did give up a 16-yard run, which is the longest of the year. We also gave up a 12-yard. So, we gave up two runs. We didn't fit it as well as we would like. We made up for it when we tackled them for no gain. We had, I think, six tackles for losses, which is good. We just keep getting better at it.

Q: Do you feel like you had to give up anything in the secondary, which didn't perform as well, to keep the rush defense as strong as it was?

A: Not really. The boundary corners played better. Josh Hawkins played the first half and had five solo tackles. He made a mistake and pressed in blitz coverage. We don't do that. Thank God we got great pressure and hit the quarterback as he released the ball. It was incomplete. One time in Cover 2, he let the receiver inside on slant. But other than that, he played as well as you can play. Detric Allen played the second half. Detric graded out a winner. He had one poor technique in man to man coverage. Other than that, he played really well. Adonis Armstrong had a pass interference call. The first touchdown in the first overtime was probably my fault. It was not a call. He was basically on an island by himself. I did not help our defense, especially the secondary, in two particular calls on 2nd-and-6 that led to touchdowns. I've got to do a better job. I did not help us. I guessed wrong on those two calls and they out-coached me on those two calls.

Q: When you're running a heavy blitz and attacking the line of scrimmage, what do you look for to stop the big play downfield? Are you looking for skilled players in man coverage or smarter players in zone coverage?

A: First thing you look at is the skill of the athletes that you're covering with the skill you have. The one guy we were worried about was [Ryan Grant], who is the one that caught the touchdowns in overtime. We did a great job on him for four quarters. I talked to Damon Magazu before overtime and said "we probably need to go three-deep zone over top of him and roll the corner and double him, but I'll let you know if we want to do that." I didn't do that and I should have, looking back. I think if we'd had done that, it might have turned out different.

Q: What have you seen from Southern Miss on tape?

A: I have seen that they're young at wide receiver, but they're tall, lean and can run. They've got skill people. They spread you out, like everyone does now. They get in 10 personnel, which is four wide receivers and throw the ball all over the place. They will get into some 20 personnel, which is three wide receivers and two running backs. I haven't looked at a lot of film because we came in today and looked at the game film and graded it. But, the film I we've looked at was basically their third down stuff. They're athletic. Their quarterback's a senior. He's a transfer. He graduated, I think, from California. Because he graduated, he could play this year without sitting. He's a good quarterback. I think they've got one older guy on the offensive line. They've got some young guys on the o-line. They've played some people pretty well. Again, it's like any other game. Wins are very difficult to get. They will come in here and we will have to earn a victory.

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