RALEIGH, N.C. – NC State head coach Dave Doeren has announced that his mentor and friend Ruffin McNeill has joined the Wolfpack staff. McNeill, one of the most well-liked and respected people in college football, will serve as the special assistant to the head coach.
Doeren has known McNeill, who boasts four decades of coaching experience, for more than 20 years and their professional paths have crossed several times. When Doeren was a graduate assistant at USC in 1999, McNeill was the defensive line coach at nearby Fresno State. The two coached in the Big 12 together from 2002-05 – Doeren at Kansas and McNeill at Texas Tech – and for Doeren’s first three years at NC State, McNeill was the head coach at East Carolina.
“I’ve known Ruffin since the beginning of my coaching career,” Doeren said. “Not only is he one of my closest friends in the profession, but he’s been a mentor to me since I was 24 years old. We’ve crossed paths on the recruiting trail many times over the past 22 years and have been friends and competitors. Having a former head coach on our staff who I can trust and have known for almost my entire career is a huge benefit for me personally, as well as for our entire program.
“As a North Carolina native and a former coach at Appalachian State and ECU, Ruffin has great relationships and ties across our state. I am looking forward to working with him and want to welcome him and his wife Erlene to the Wolfpack family.”
In his role with the Wolfpack, McNeill will serve as an advisor to Doeren and will contribute to and lead special projects. He will be a source of outreach for Wolfpack football to campus, alumni, and community groups on behalf of the program. He will also help provide player development analysis.
“Dave and I have been very good friends and colleagues and I’ve followed his career over the past 20 years,” said McNeill. “I have the highest respect for him as a coach and cherish our long friendship. Erlene and I are happy to be back in North Carolina and very appreciative of the opportunity.
“I look forward to being a resource for the entire staff, but especially for Dave. I’ve been in that chair and know the pressures that come along with it, so I hope to be a sounding board for him.”
McNeill most recently served as the assistant head coach at Oklahoma, where he led the defensive tackles and outside linebackers during his three seasons with the program. He also served as defensive coordinator for much of the 2018 campaign. He left the program in January in order to return to North Carolina to help care for his elderly father.
During his tenure at OU, the Sooners won three Big 12 Championships and advanced to three College Football Playoffs. Following the 2017 season, Oklahoma played Georgia in the CFB semifinals, losing 48-54 in double OT. The next season, the Sooners played Alabama in the Orange Bowl and last season played LSU in the Chick Fil A Peach Bowl.
In 2016, he was the assistant head coach and defensive line coach at Virginia.
McNeill was named head coach at East Carolina, his alma mater, on Jan. 21, 2010, and served in that capacity for six seasons (2010-15). He posted a 42-34 record at ECU and his Pirates’ teams played in four bowl games and beat Ohio 37-20 in the 2013 Beef O’Brady’s Bowl.
During his tenure at ECU, current Wolfpack cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell served as his defensive coordinator for three seasons (2010-12).
In 2014, East Carolina began the season with a 6-1 record and was ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll for six weeks. ECU used an explosive offensive unit that rated among the nation’s top five in passing (third), first downs (fourth) and total yards (fifth). Defensively, only 10 FBS teams were better against the run, as the Pirates allowed just 111.8 yards per game.
The Pirates recorded 10 victories in 2013, which ranks as the second-highest single-season win total in school history. That squad also broke or matched 52 individual and team single-game, single-season and all-time standards, while both sides of the ball combined to rank among the top 15 nationally in 12 statistical categories. The Pirates finished 7-1 in Conference USA that year.
Prior to East Carolina, McNeill spent 10 seasons at Texas Tech, where he coached linebackers (2000-02), special teams (2003- 06) and defensive tackles (2007) and was the assistant head coach (2003-09). He served as Texas Tech’s interim defensive coordinator in 2007 before being promoted to the spot full-time for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. He concluded the 2009 campaign as the Red Raiders’ interim head coach by rallying No. 21 Texas Tech to a 41-31 victory over Michigan State at the Valero Alamo Bowl.
McNeill began his coaching career at Lumberton High School (1980-84) and went on to work at Clemson (1985-86), Austin Peay (1987), North Alabama (1988), Appalachian State (1989-91, 1993-96), East Carolina (1992), UNLV (1997-98) and Fresno State (1999). He also spent time with the Miami Dolphins as a summer intern in 1996.
A four-year letterwinner at ECU (1976-80), McNeill was a three-year starter and two-time team captain under legendary head coach Pat Dye. He helped lead ECU to the Southern Conference Championship in 1976 and an Independence Bowl berth in 1978.
He graduated from ECU in 1980 after majoring in education with a focus in special education. He later earned his master’s degree in secondary counseling from Clemson.
McNeill and his wife, Erlene, have two daughters and a granddaughter. Renata McNeill Petrekin resides in Coral Springs, Fla., with her daughter Isabella, while Olivia McNeill is a social justice educator at Brown University in Providence, R.I.
The hire is pending routine background checks.