South Carolina deserves its No. 12 national ranking and maybe more, the coach of the season’s first opponent said Monday.
“It’s definitely going to be a big boy game,” East Carolina’s Ruffin McNeill said. “It’s a grown man game this weekend facing South Carolina.”
McNeill’s Pirates face the Gamecocks on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. It will be the season-opener for both teams.
“What we have to do is make sure we play hard on both sides of the ball and control the things we can control,” McNeil said.
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McNeill, who has a defensive background, is very impressed with South Carolina’s offense and quarterback Stephen Garcia, he said.
"I have had a chance to watch Coach (Steve) Spurrier’s teams from the Florida days,” McNeill said. “If you start offensively, you have to start with Garcia at quarterback. I think he’s one of those guys that has that competitive spirit that you want at the quarterback position. He can make all the throws, and he’s also not just a good runner, he’s a great runner with the football in his hands.”
Defensively, he likes the schemes of Ellis Johnson and Lorenzo Ward paired with the Gamecocks’ personnel. Asked what he thought of defensive end Jadeveon Clowney as a high school prospect, McNeill said, “God All Mighty, or as my daughter texts, ‘OMG.’ ”
“I think this team is well deserved of all their preseason recognition,” he said. “We are facing a great football team, we know that.”