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East Carolina-Virginia Tech: Q&A with GobblerCountry.com’s Roy Hatfield

The Pirates are seeking their third win in as many years against the Hokies

NCAA Football: Boston College at Virginia Tech
First-year head coach Justin Fuente has his team at 2-1 following a 49-0 blowout of Boston College.
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Following a frustrating 20-15 loss at South Carolina, ECU will look to rebound with a road upset of Virginia Tech.

On Friday, we will have our in-depth preview of this match-up.

Today, we have Roy Hatfield of SBNation's Virginia Tech site GobblerCountry.com to provide us with an in-depth perspective of the Hokies and what he expects to see in Blacksburg on Saturday.

GobblerCountry.com’s Roy Hatfield with legendary Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer at the Battle at Bristol on September 10.

UDD ECU Beat Writer Bubba Rosenbaum:

During nearly three decades (29 years) at the helm of his alma mater's football program, Frank Beamer took Virginia Tech from a struggling independent to a perennial Big East/ACC contender and national power. The Hokies, who have been to 23 straight bowl games and posted 23 straight winning seasons, have lost at least 5 games in each of the last four seasons and the fan base was seemingly becoming a little frustrated--especially with the lack of offense--toward the end of the Beamer Era.

Discuss that situation and the transition to new head coach Justin Fuente. How has he been received by the fans? It seems as though most college football analysts considered it be one of the best hires of the offseason after the way he resurrected the Memphis program.

GobblerCountry.com's Roy Hatfield:

The transition from Beamer to Fuente was handled brilliantly. The fan base had grown stagnant, and there was the general feeling that Beamer would be unable to take Virginia Tech to the next level. The entire lynch pin was Bud Foster. Bud really wanted the job, and the administration didn't want to lose such a talented coach. For whatever reason, A.D. Whit Babcock, felt Foster wasn't ready. The fact that Babcock was able to sell Bud Foster on staying in Blacksburg as defensive coordinator, is incredible. I have spoken with both Beamer, and Fuente, and both genuinely seem to respect each other. We have seen the legendary coach transition go horribly wrong, and I think Virginia Tech nailed it. Hats off to Whit and team for a home run.

UDD ECU Beat Writer Bubba Rosenbaum:

During the last several years of the Beamer Era, the Hokies' offense left much to be desired despite some changes being made at offensive coordinator.

Through three games, the offense seems to be much more productive (36.3 ppg, 442.7 ypg). Talk about the new approach that Head Coach Justin Fuente and Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach Brad Cornelsen have brought.

What can Pirate fans expect to see from this Virginia Tech attack?

GobblerCountry.com's Roy Hatfield:

The Scott Loeffler experiment is over. The Hokie fan base had real venom for the current Boston College O.C.. The stats tell a bit of a different story. The Hokies averaged a healthy 31 PPG last year, but most Hokies remember several games where they looked completely inept. Fuente has the reputation of being uptempo, but if you ask Fuente, he says something along the lines of, "We don't go fast for the sake of going fast." That's the general philosophy of the offense. The Hokies press when they need to, other times you might see them take their time. Much of this is dictated by down and distance, and field position. Fuente has made it very clear that the tempo of the offense will not be at the expense of the Bud Foster defense. Pirate fans will see some serious speed on the outside. They will see a QB, in Jerod Evans, that is dynamic, and athletic. They will see Bucky Hodges line up at receiver, and be incorporated into the read option attack. Point is, the Hokies offense has left the stone age, and joined the jet age. Pair that with a Bud Foster defense, and the Hokies are a tough out.

NCAA Football: Boston College at Virginia Tech
Jerod Evans (4) was considered by many to be the top JUCO quarterback in the nation.
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

UDD ECU Beat Writer Bubba Rosenbaum:

Despite the return of last year's part-time starter Brenden Motley, highly-touted JUCO product Jerod Evans won the quarterback job. The 6'3", 238-pounder, who has nearly 700 yards passing and over 100 rushing, can hurt you with his arm and his legs. He is doing an excellent job of taking care of the football through three games, as he's thrown 10 touchdowns and just one interception.

What are Evans strengths? weaknesses?

GobblerCountry.com's Roy Hatfield:

Evans was rated as the number one JUCO QB by several services. Evans has the unique blend of size and speed. In my opinion, he is the most complete QB to play for Virginia Tech since Tyrod Taylor. There have been some hiccups (an errant pitch on an option vs. Liberty), but for the most part he has afforded himself well. The most surprising part of Evans' game is his shiftiness when running. He's a big man, but he had some great cuts against the Vols, and nobody had a clean hit on him the whole game. That's an S.E.C. defense coming for him, and on several runs he made guys tackle a ghost. At the post game presser in Bristol, he took full responsibility for the ball security issues. That speaks to his character as a leader. Evans didn't fumble against Tennessee, but was defending his teammates. That goes a long way in the locker room.

UDD ECU Beat Writer Bubba Rosenbaum: Evans has plenty of talent surrounding him at the skill positions. Starting running back Travon McMillian (1,043, 7 TD) is back and the team's top three receivers--Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips and Bucky Hodges--return.

Discuss the offensive line and how it is shaping up this season?

GobblerCountry.com's Roy Hatfield:

The offensive line has seen some shuffling, especially at center. The one negative on the Hokies' offensive performance this year has been the running game. I'm not sure part of that is Hokies' fans comparing apples to oranges. There has been some competition, especially at center, but I think this game will solidify some spots on the line. McMillian has had some good carries, but the alleys have been so small that Marshawn Williams, and Shai McKenzie have looked great. They have a bit better speed, and don't need a big gap. Look for the running duties to be a committee effort.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Virginia
Bud Foster is in his 30th season as a coach at Virginia Tech. He has been the defensive coordinator since 1995.
James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

UDD ECU Beat Writer Bubba Rosenbaum:

Prior to Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock hiring Justin Fuente, he communicated expectations/conditions of the hiring as far as retaining long-time defensive coordinator Bud Foster. Long-time defensive line coach Charley Wiles was also retained. Through three games, has the Hokies' defense looked essentially the same as it did under Beamer? Who are some of the key contributors?

GobblerCountry.com's Roy Hatfield:

The biggest weakness overall for the Hokies is at linebacker. Andrew Motuapuaka has certainly developed at MLB, but we are so thin at that position, it is scary. The secondary is currently ranked number 1 in the country against the pass. Greg Strohman has played huge in the early goings of the season, but don't sleep on Mook Reynolds who is a serious ball hawk. The most interesting player on the D-line is 6'4" 345 DT, Tim Settle. This guy is huge, but runs like a deer. He is a complete freak, and the redshirt freshman is getting more and more snaps this season. The outside pass rush is led by Ken Ekanem, who is a speed rusher with incredible burst. Last week against Boston College, he lived in the Eagles' backfield.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Virginia
Joey Slye is 3-for-5 on field goals with his misses coming from 47 and 52.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

UDD ECU Beat Writer Bubba Rosenbaum:

"Beamer Ball" was largely a reference to the special teams' success experienced by the Hokies under their former coach. What does this Virginia Tech team bring to the table in the kicking game?

GobblerCountry.com's Roy Hatfield:

We can't punt for some reason. Place kicker, Joey Slye, will probably end up on an N.F.L. roster. Our punting game has been a big point of discussion. At the Battle At Bristol, our current punter actually booted a 12 yard punt. Work to do there.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at East Carolina
Last season, James Summers came off the bench to run for 169 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries in the Pirates’ 35-28 win over Virginia Tech in Greenville.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

UDD ECU Beat Writer Bubba Rosenbaum:

Lastly, Saturday will mark the 21st meeting between these programs and the ninth in the last ten seasons. The series is scheduled to continue over the next several years. Do Hokie fans enjoy the series with East Carolina? What do you think the keys to victory are for Virginia Tech, as they seek to snap a two-game skid versus the Pirates after winning 10 of the previous 11?

GobblerCountry.com's Roy Hatfield:

I love playing East Carolina. They remind me of watching Virginia Tech grow in the mid 90's. They are following the Virginia Tech model for long term success. They have an absolutely fantastic fan base. Their stadium is always sold out. They are exciting to watch. I think that if East Carolina continues on the path, there will be more than one Power 5 conference trying to snap them up. Greenville is amazing, but we will win on Saturday.

Final score: Virginia Tech 42 East Carolina 24.