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September 13, 2013

Stock Watch: At ECU

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In 2008, East Carolina ended a six-game losing streak to Virginia Tech thanks to a 27-22 victory at Bank of America stadium. After putting up a combined 83 points in their first two victories, the hope in Greenville is that the Pirates can produce a similar effort to end a four-game streak of defeats.

A Hokies secondary that's given up an average of 80.5 yards passing a game (fourth in the country) is sure to face a stiff test against the nation's 21st-ranked air attack. (324.5 yards per game) It certainly won't be "cakework", as senior defensive end James Gayle has said before.

Let's take a look at whose stock is trending up and who is trending down heading into the noon matchup between Virginia Tech and ECU.


TE Kalvin Cline, freshman, Virginia Tech

Let this jumble around your brain for a second: In 2012, a Hokie tight end caught four passes in a game one time. (Ryan Malleck for 58 yards, Nov. 1 at Miami)

In his first game as a college football player, Cline managed to grab four passes for 46 yards. He suddenly becomes an immediate threat in the short-to-intermediate game for senior quaarterback Logan Thomas going forward. It's hard to believe that just a few weeks ago Cline was in line for a redshirt season, but he will be forced to step up due to Malleck's injury.

The 6'4" 238-pound true freshman's sure hands are likely to be a valuable asset for the Hokies throughout his career. And if he continues making consistent weekly progress, it won't be long before he's as reliable as the jeans he so appropriately shares a name with.

DT Derrick Hopkins, redshirt senior, Virginia Tech

The third-year starter had three assists against Alabama, but he really showed his dominance on Saturday as the Hokies' second-leading tackler with eight assists. Hopkins also added two quarterback hurries to his impressive performance.

Almost an immovable object in the middle of the defensive line, the senior has recorded tackles in 29 straight games, showing a tremendous amount of durability. However, you would have to go back to Sept. 3 of 2012 against Georgia Tech to find the last time he recorded more than six tackles (11). It was the third time in Hopkins' career that he registered at least eight.

Against an East Carolina team that loves to throw the football (see: top of page), it will be vital for Hopkins to disrupt the passing game by providing pressure up the middle.

QB Shane Carden, junior, East Carolina

In his second year as the ECU signal-caller, Carden has really found his comfort zone in the first two games of 2013. The junior has already thrown for 638 yards on the season, and has seven touchdowns to zero interceptions.

Perhaps more impressive is the 79.7% completion rate Carden sports after connecting on 66.1% of his throws in 2012. What's important to remember, however, is the bulk of these passes aren't down the field. Carden's longest pass completion through two contests is 23 yards, so it's likely that he'll continue to keep at least a modest completion rate on Saturday.

The key for the Virginia Tech defense will be to tackle well in open space against the many athletes that Carden will distribute the ball to. (Five receivers with at least five catches and 50 yards) And if the Hokies are to produce the first interception(s) of Carden's season, it will only help but to preserve a victory in Greenville.


WR D.J. Coles, redshirt senior, Virginia Tech

Once looked upon as the possible go-to receiver in the Hokie offense, Coles now finds himself listed as a backup behind redshirt freshman Joshua Stanford at the split end position. Coles found himself in a limited role against Western Carolina, although he did have a fine leaping 19-yard touchdown catch for his only reception of the game.

Coach Frank Beamer hinted that Coles, at least right now, is better to be used situationally as opposed to every down. Whatever the reason for that is, Coles has just two catches in the first two games. That's not exactly going to help lock down a job.

There's no question Coles has the ability, but can he find a way to get back to his 2011 form?

The WHIP position, Josh Trimble & Derek Dinardo, Virginia Tech

This isn't a knock on either Trimble or Dinardo, but the fact is a nickel coverage will mostly be used to defend against East Carolina's quick, spread attack. Each player has performed admirably in the first two games (Trimble with six tackles, Dinardo with three), but it will be a rarity if either finds the field on defense.

Cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Kendall Fuller, and Brandon Facyson are sure to have their work cut out for them not only in coverage, but tackling on short passes to the outside. Considering Antone Exum's return is on the horizon, one can't help but think Kendall Fuller won't see his playing time dip all too much when Exum does indeed see the field.

There are likely to be opportunities available against Marshall and Georgia Tech in the coming weeks for these two, but the WHIP position is unlikely to be used in a significant capacity this Saturday.

SS Chip Thompson, senior, East Carolina

Thompson quickly broke onto the scene after a junior college transfer last season, as he recorded 57 tackles (5th on the team) and intercepted a team-high three passes. He also added a 45-yard fumble return for a touchdown, marking ECU's first defensive touchdown since 2009.

But Thompson hasn't been a standout on the stat sheet thus far through two games in 2013. The senior has just four tackles on the season, and hasn't produced a turnover yet. He does have three breakups and three passes defended, so it's clear that Thompson is around the ball a ton when the opponent passes.

He will be a vital piece to the ECU defense, both in the run-game and in the secondary, against Scot Loeffler's offense.


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