GREENVILLE, N.C. - Former USF and ECU defensive backs coach Rick Smith is Ruffin McNeill's choise for defensive coordinator at East Carolina.
Smith was recently released at South Florida when former USF head coach Skip Holtz was fired.
The hiring ends a two week search for a replacement for former defensive coordinator Bryan Mitchell who was released in early January and promptly scooped up by West Virginia as a defensive backs coach.
Coach McNeill explained his thinking on making this pivital hire for the defensive side of the football.
"Before beginning the search process, I established specific criteria for this position - 1) experience as a respected defensive coordinator, 2) experience as a respected secondary coach, 3) experience as an effective recruiter and 4) a fit for East Carolina Football and the University," McNeill said. "After conducting a thorough national search and reaching out to my contacts from both the college and professional ranks, it became very clear that Rick represented those values and more."
The fourth year head coach went on to talk about how Smith represents a good fit for his staff and this ECU program.
"When I completed the telephone and in-person discussion phase, he fit those qualities to certainly reaffirm that he was the right choice. We are excited to welcome Rick and Barbara back to the Pirate Nation."
In 2011 Smith's secondary at USF ranked 37th in scoring defense, only allowing 22.7 points per game and the Bulls were 41st in pass efficiency defense.
While working as a defensive backs coach from 2005 through 2009 at ECU, Smith rebuilt the Pirate defense and was a mentor to defensive coordinator Greg Hudson, who turned down the job last week.
Smith's defense at ECU generated 15 interceptions in 2005 before
steadily increasing that total every year afterward. 16, 17 and 22.
Those totals found ECU ranked 21st, 25th and fifth nationally in interceptions during his first stay in Greenville.
In 2008, the Pirates held two teams under 100 yards passing. That included a 72-yard stuffing of West Virginia and All-America quarterback Pat White that ECU won 24-3. ECU beat Virginia Tech the week before in Charlotte.
All four of Smith's secondary starters earned All-Conference USA honors in 2006 setting new school single-game and season records for most touchdowns on interception returns.
Smith tutored memorable Pirate defenders Van Eskridge, Travis Williams, Travis Simmons and Emanuel Davis who PirateIllustrated.com nominated and was named on Rivals.com's All Freshman squad in 2008.
East Carolina won two straight Conference USA crowns during Smith's first adventure in Greenville.
Smith's secondary in Greenville ranked second in Conference USA, giving up just under 200 yards per game. That had the Pirates ranked in the top 50 in pass defense and top 40 in pass efficiency defense.
The 22 interceptions by the Pirate defense in 2008 was the most for any ECU squad since 1994. East Carolina picked off the top offensive team in the country, Tulsa, five times in the Conference USA championship game. Travis Simmons returned an interception 72 yards for a touchdown and earned MVP honors.