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September 13, 2013

Know Your Enemy: E Carolina

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Each game, we'll get the inside look at Virginia Tech's opponent by talking with the opposing team's beat writer. This week, we spoke with PirateIllustrated.com senior analyst Mark Lindsay to get the inside look at [tm]East Carolina[/tm].

1) We've heard plenty about how fast-paced ECU's offense is, but is it comparable at all to Oregon? If not, who would you compare it to?

Lindsay: They have an ability to do up-tempo. Whether they do that all the time or not depends on the situation. They'll operate out of the shotgun 100 percent of the time. They have a good ability to audibilize on the field. You don't see as much of the Jim Furyk-type of offense like you see at Duke, you know, where you get over the putt and you pull away. You re-read the putt or look at the sideline and all of that. That does speed things up a little bit.

They will get a little NASCAR on you every now and then. I don't know if it's quite like Oregon, but it's getting better every year.

2) How good is wide receiver [db]Justin Hardy[/db]? Is he every bit as good as advertised?

Lindsay: He's pretty good. I think he's a very good receiver. He's a Biletnikoff award candidate this year. he's on the list. he doesn't miss a lot of passes that are thrown his way. He has the ability to escape tacklers and make a big play after the catch. He does pretty good with yards after catch.

He's very good and should be a first-team all-Conference USA performer this year, as a junior. He's a guy who wasn't very highly recruited. he played quarterback in high school and East Carolina was one of the only ones to offer him. He's turned out to be a really good player.

3) After giving up 38 points to Old Dominion, the defense looks to have adjusted well, with 13 points allowed against Florida Atlantic. Can the defense keep that up?

Lindsay: ODU will tend to score some points on a lot of people. One thing that Maryland had the advantage on, that East Carolina didn't was a week of video to look at. East Carolina was looking at last year's film and last year's defense and ODU has a new defensive coordinator there as well. I think they're continuing to just improve as they go.

ECU has a new defensive coordinator, [db]Rick Smith[/db], who was here with [db]Skip Holtz[/db] five years ago. They've taken a liking to him and he's a secondary guy. I think he's beginning to make a difference, but right now, you've got the same guys out there. They'll improve some, but I think the jury is still out as to how they'll fare this weekend.

4) There's a veteran presence with the Pirates and a lot of players who were on the ECU team that Virginia Tech narrowly beat two years ago. Is there anything ECU or those players can take from that game and apply it to this week?

Lindsay: It was a close game two years ago. If they take anything from that, it's that the game could have gone either way. I think that will probably give them some confidence in being able to compete well this weekend. Whether they do or not, we'll have to wait and see.

5) VT is a seven-point favorite, but does ECU feel like the clear underdog here? How are the Pirates treating this game?

Lindsay: Any time you play a name-brand team, you're probably the underdog. Since Virginia Tech was allowed to move up in the early 90s and East Carolina was not, that's made a big difference. Over the course of time, the seriousness of football in Greenville has still managed to create a 50,000-seat stadium here and great, new facilities all over campus. There's over $100 million in facilities that have been built in the last five years.

I'm sure they see it as a competitive game, a winnable game. I don't think ECU sees itself as the favorite by any means. But I think they know if they play like they can play, it should be a competitive contest.

FEARLESS PREDICTION: I would say this game will be too close to call. This is an experienced bunch on offense. When they started last year, they started with a different quarterback, who didn't pan out in [db]Rijo Johnson[/db]. Shane came in the second game against South Carolina mid-game and got his first start against North Carolina the next week. They've gained a lot of experience between then and now and there's a lot of other guys, this is a junior, senior-lade ball club for the most part.

ECU does have a few guys out, a pair of linebackers, [db]Kyle Tutor[/db] and [db]Jeremy Grove[/db], a Butkus-list candidate. They're pretty deep at that position though and we'll see how that goes.

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