Capital One Orange Bowl: Alabama vs Oklahoma

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Ruffin McNeill

Oklahoma Sooners

Q. Ruffin, you were in the Big 12 for a long time with Mike on sort of the forefront of this offensive revolution that we're in in college football right now. I was kind of curious when you look back at the macro, what are some things that fall sociologically that have evolved the same to this point?
RUFFIN MCNEILL: Well, you know, the passing game, of course. It sounds simple, but the way offenses now are able to spread the football field, each team is able to attack you vertically, horizontally, as well, with the run game, and all the teams here in this final four tournament are able to do that offensively.

The other thing that I know we started with Mike at Texas Tech was ball distribution where everyone touches the ball. Try to keep equal distribution among each receiver, eligible runner, either by hand-off or by toss, but spreading the field, attacking you those three ways, vertically, horizontally and with the run game, and then able to have great ball distribution. That's key.

Q. I would imagine a lot of football is a byproduct of what you can play with. I'm curious going back to Tech 10, 15 years ago when you were there to now obviously when you're recruiting down there, how have Texas high schools evolved and how much do you think what we're seeing now is a trickle up from what's available?
RUFFIN MCNEILL: It's big. You first saw it in the summer with the camps, and the 7-on-7 passing leagues and you saw quarterbacks develop because of those tournament -- 7-on-7 tournament teams were very athletic both defensively and on the offensive side of the football. But you saw quarterbacks able to develop because they threw year-round. And the offenses even evolved, and now you find those great quarterbacks a lot during the summer, especially in Texas.

Also the way it's structured in Texas high school football is different than any other place I've been with athletic administration period where you have your football team an hour to 30, 40, 50 minutes a day and you can choose what you want to do during that time then also at practice time. So they're able to see their team four hours in one day to work on it. So you've seen that in Texas with the summer leagues and now the coaches are able to work with their football teams, and again, repetition of the passing game and efficient. You see it week in and week out.

Q. How rare is it as a defensive coordinator to see a left-handed quarterback? There's none in the NFL right now.
RUFFIN MCNEILL: I love lefties. I really do. I coached high school basketball and football for five years, and I always wanted lefties. I just think it's a different deal. I love the lefties. It is different because the ball spins differently, the ball to receivers approach them differently, and then you have a young man like Tua who's very efficient and athletic. I don't think it's athleticism, a lot of times it's justified. He's really very athletic and efficient with reads and tossing the ball around. The lefty, I always liked lefties in baseball pitchers from the batters being lefties, quarterbacks lefties. I'm different. I like watching lefties. I'm not looking forward to defending lefties, this lefty, but I've always been attracted to left-handed quarterbacks in all sports, whether it's a left-handed shooter or a pitcher or whatever.

Q. Is there any unique challenge from your chair of stopping a lefty? What do you think is different?
RUFFIN MCNEILL: Well, they do a great job. You think people are heavy handed to his strength side, which is the defense to the offense on the left. But Mike has done a great job, Locksley has done a great job of making sure he has the ability to throw both ways, not just to his strong side or his dominant side. So with this offense, they're able to use it both ways. But some teams lean to that dominant side, but with Tua and what Mike has done there, they really actively attack both sides, so you can't get a beam on that.

Q. In this era where everybody is scoring so much, is it a thankless job that you have?
RUFFIN MCNEILL: Not really. I think for me, I tend to keep things in perspective quite a bit. I won a championship 9-7 one year, 9-7, and we had to hold them for three quarters to win it. But the scoring, and if you happen to have that ego and personality and know, yeah, don't get caught up into that part, it's how many times can you break serve defensively, how many times can you get the ball by turnover or by fourth-down turnover and give it back to your offense. A lot of different stats I think need to be emphasized besides the scores, because they can score. Now you've got great athletes at the five skill positions, so the score can look that way sometimes. And we've faced in this conference, like I was asked earlier about since 2000 when it started evolving with Mike at Texas Tech, they are able to throw the football, and they have great athletes, as well, competing. I call it competitive balls. And now add a run game which Alabama does more, we do more, you see them throwing it. Add that particularly run game, it's not a sidebar to handing the ball off, but it's really a strategic part of their offensive game plan.

So you have to be ready to defend both I think as a play caller or a defensive coach, you've got to make sure you keep things in perspective and respect it and know that they're going to -- there's a good chance they can put some points on the board, but you can't get caught up into worrying about too much because you're able to get the ball -- again, defensive thought process has to be get the ball back to your offense on defense, break serve. Of course as a defensive guy all his life for 38 years of coaching, yeah, you'd like to have a zero, but at the same time, you've got to evolve and know that the quarterbacks have developed. West Coast is where it really started first, developing quarterbacks, and it moved to Texas and now it's across the country. You have to be ready to not accept it but deal with it and move on to the next play.

Q. How many breaks of serve do you think you'll need?
RUFFIN MCNEILL: In this type of game you're going to need a lot because they do a great job of taking advantage even if you're not making mistakes, again, 50/50 balls, competitive balls, they're able to make them. You know, we'll need quite a few, and I think -- I'm sure Coach Saban feels the same way about our offense.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #1 by #166 at 2018-12-26 14:41:00 GMT

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