We had player interviews today, plus Bud Foster. I wrote about the team's special teams play so far, starting off with a money quote from punter Oscar Bradburn, who is quickly emerging as one of the best interviews on the team.
Here are a few more notes and quotes from today ...
1. Sean Huelskamp is the backup mike linebacker with Tavante Beckett suspended.
Foster confirmed that the senior will back up Andrew Motuapuaka at the mike position this week with Beckett on an indefinite suspension. Huelskamp's played in 22 career games and started twice, including at ECU two years ago. (That wasn't the fondest memory, since Huelskamp got ejected on a pretty iffy targeting call.)
"He’s very versatile," Foster said. "He’s our No. 2 mike. He’ll be that guy right now. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Sean. He’s actually playing both mike and backer right now."
Foster deferred to Fuente about Beckett's situation, saying he wasn't sure if Beckett would be back, though he noted that he's planning on it. The suspension doesn't change Tech's long-term thinking at the linebacker spots, Foster said, even though three of the four players in the two deep on the interior are seniors and the other (Tremaine Edmunds) could very well be a candidate to enter the NFL Draft a year early.
"We do have some young guys that are in position to play, particularly Rayshard Ashby at the mike spot," Foster said. "I really like him. I like his football IQ. I like how he plays. He really performed well in our scrimmages and he’s playing right now with the idea that he can play and be ready to play as we move forward in the future.
"And I think you’ll see more potential play out of Dylan Rivers, who really hasn’t gotten in a ballgame as of yet. But I think we’re kind of bringing him along with the idea that he’s going to be thrown into the fire here sooner than later, probably. But I think we’re going to go ahead and look at potentially him on special teams too."
2. East Carolina has two quarterbacks, although Foster doesn't expect much to change with one in the game versus the another.
The Pirates have played both Thomas Sirk and Gardner Minshew this season, with the pair combining for 620 passing yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions.
Sirk's in the concussion protocol this week, and though it sounds like the Pirates expect him to start, nothing's certain yet. Regardless, ECU's offense doesn't change drastically with on in the game compared to the other.
"This is not like the Duke offenses, where you had one quarterback and he’d come in and do something totally different, be it a running game or a power run game by the quarterback or that type of thing," Foster said. "They’re trying to find the hot guy, is what it looks like to me. They started the other kid, 5, the first game. They brought Sirk in the second half. So we’ll see. I understand that Sirk is in concussion protocol, whatever that is. But I fully expect him to play and be ready to play. We’re preparing for East Carolina and their offense and not particularly one quarterback or another."
Foster also doesn't expect a James Summers type to come out of nowhere like two years ago, when the barely-used Summers came off the bench and thrived in the rain against the Hokies, throwing for 118 yards, running for 169 and accounting for three scores in the 35-28 win.
"At least, they haven’t shown anybody as of yet," Foster said. "We’ll be prepared for that, though, just for what we have seen through our offense a little bit. Just with the three different quarterbacks that we have and the abilities they have each, in particular that they can run. So if they did bring somebody in like a Summers-type guy, I think we would be able to adapt a little bit better than what we have in the past."
3. Virginia Tech's backup defensive tackles remain a work in progress, although Foster's encouraged.
The Hokies are set at their starters on the interior with Ricky Walker and Tim Settle, but they need depth to keep those guys fresh. Foster said the third best option is the guy starting at end.
"We did play Vinny Mihota in there a little bit," Foster said. "He’s probably our third best tackle when it’s all said and done. I think he was very active and productive whether he was at end or tackle."
Foster was encouraged by the play of redshirt freshman Jarrod Hewitt, however.
"I think he was one of our most improved guys from the spring throughout the summer, to where he is this fall," Foster said. "He needs to continue that way.
"We need a little bit more athleticism at the other tackle. Jimmie Taylor, I trust him. He’s rugged. We need a little bit more athletic ability inside. Xavier Burke is a guy that you may see a little bit. We still have Darius Fullwood in there that’s a guy that has some abilities. Just needs to be consistently good. But we’re still doing that backup part by committee, but I saw a guy that I felt like can be the next guy that can figure in in Jarrod Hewitt. I thought I saw him improve."
4. Bud's not buying ECU's slow start, and he used animal metaphors to get his point across.
Fuente didn't buy ECU's 0-2 start yesterday. Foster didn't today. And while there's some coach-speak in there -- what are they going to say, that ECU is as bad as it has looked? -- there's also the knowledge of the tight history of this series from Foster's perspective.
"Looking at East Carolina, I don’t know how often we’ve played them, a bunch in my time here, I have a lot of respect for them," he said. "Tremendous athletes. I don’t think you can look at their last two games as far as what they’re going to be when we play them on Saturday. It’s always been a tough, hard-fought game.
"And they’re going to be like a dog backed up in the corner, so to speak. And it’s always been a hornet’s nest to go down there. But you’ve got a group that’s backed up against the wall a little bit. And I think they will come out and be ready to play. And when it’s all said and done, we respect that, and it’s about us. But that’s kind of what we’re looking towards this week."
5. Bradburn's come a long way in a couple of departments.
The Aussie simulated a lot of what he would have to do as a college kicker at Prokick Australia, the kicking academy he participated in, but doing it in an actual game -- and some additional duties that he's taken on -- has been an adjustment.
For instance, a punter's get-off time -- from when he receives it to when he gets the kick off -- is supposed to be around 1.25 seconds or under. His first effort in the opener took 1.83 seconds.
"So it's a bit different with the nerves and stuff in the game," he said.
Bradburn's also assumed holder duties, in large part because he's around the kickers all the time. The backup holder, C.J. Carroll, doesn't have that luxury, so kicker Joey Slye insisted Bradburn learn the job.
"I think Joey, as soon as I got here was pretty much like, 'No, You've got to do this,'" Bradburn said. "I thought, all right. I want to help out the team as much as I can so I want to do that for him. That's something that's obviously come a long way since I first got here and I was dropping balls left, right and center, but I've come a long way in that aspect as well."