The new defensive coordinator: Rick Smith
Coach Ruffin McNeill and the ECU Football team announced Rick Smith to be the next defensive coordinator in a meeting held last Friday. The pick came as an easy one for McNeill, taking into consideration that the new defensive specialist previously held a five-year tenure at ECU as a defensive back coach.
“After meeting with him in person, it was, for me, a clear cut decision,” said coach McNeill about Rick Smith. “His experience has been well documented not just here, but in other places. So we’re very happy to have Rick back in Pirate Nation.”
A seasoned veteran on the defensive side of the ball, Smith brings 32 years of collegiate coaching experience to the team as well as six years of experience running FBS-level defenses. During his previous stint at ECU, Smith produced a defensive backfield that ranked among the top 20 in the nation in 2005 and was part of an era in which ECU won two Conference USA titles and made four consecutive bowl appearances from 2005-2009.
Smith began his coaching career in 1977 at Georgia Tech as head coach for its freshmen team. From there, he moved to East Tennessee State for a short while before returning to Georgia Tech in 1982 to serve as a linebackers coach and later as a secondary and punters coach from 1983-85. From Georgia Tech, Smith moved to Alabama, helping the Crimson Tide win the 1986 Sun Bowl before moving again to Baylor, where he worked under Hall of Famer Grant Teaff from 1987-89.
Smith then moved to the University of Kentucky as its secondary coach and eventually earned the spot of defensive coordinator. From there, Smith moved yet again to Tulane University, where he played a big role in the team’s undefeated season and No. 7 national rank in 1998.
From Tulane, Rick moved several times to the University of Cincinnati, Louisiana Tech, NFL Europe in Berlin and University of South Florida before returning back to ECU.
Both Smith and McNeill have made very clear their intentions on running a multiple defense this upcoming season, as opposed to the base 4-3 that we saw last season.
“I don’t believe you can do just one thing,” said Smith. “I don’t believe you can run just one defense, because you’ll get beat. I don’t believe you can run just one coverage. You have to have multiple.”
Coach Smith says the formations he plans to run on defense will range from 4-3 fronts, to nickel, dime and dollar packages where there are only three down linemen and sometimes five defensive backs. Smith also expressed that he eventually plans to make the penny package, which is a 3-3-5 setup, his base defense.
However, being defensive coordinator for a team that he previously coached and loved is not the most exciting aspect of this new opportunity for Smith. It is the opportunity to be reunited with his grandchildren, who are Greenville natives, that Smith is really looking forward to.
“I get the second chance to be a papa,” said Smith with tears in his eyes. “This is a miracle, and I will bust my butt for this team.”
Coach Smith says he and his wife fell in love with ECU during his last coaching position here and that he even plans to retire in Greenville. Both the ECU football team and student body are very happy to have such a distinguished coach as the head of our defense, and look forward to the great things to come from Coach Ruffin and his new staff.
This writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.