Five Burning Questions: East Carolina

Josh Graham from Inside ECU Sports answers Pony Stampede's five burning questions before SMU and ECU battle it out Saturday.

1. Shane Carden has been whispered as a dark horse Heisman candidate. What has made him so great this year and what's his best attribute?

JG: I think it's a combination of two things: His mental makeup being a senior and playing the last few years and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley's "Air Raid" offensive scheme. You will see on Saturday how fast the Pirates' offense moves. In fact, ECU has been stopped by officials three times this season — and flagged on one occasion — for running plays too quickly.

2. Breon Allen is averaging 9.9 yards per carry and Marquez Grayson is averaging 9.6. How does the staff utilize these two backs in the offense to get them this much room?

JG: It's not even just Allen and Grayson, but a group of five running backs that have received carries. Ruffin McNeill said earlier this week that gone are the days that one tailback can handle the vast majority of reps as a feature back. Allen is the undisputed leader of the pack as a senior and, with the threat of Carden and receiver Justin Hardy in the passing game, has continuously found holes early on this season.

3. 70 points against North Carolina two weekends ago. Where is the limit for this offense and where have they looked "human"?

JG: After that game, Carden said that if that game was the Pirates' best offensive performance this year, he would be disappointed. Considering the 70 points and school-record 789 yards ECU rolled on the Tar Heels, that's a scary thought for defensive coordinators across the country. There have been some careless turnovers, but the biggest, ongoing issue has been penalties. In the win against Virginia Tech, ECU had double-figure penalties for over 100 yards.

4. East Carolina is at -.25 in turnover margin, has the defense just not been making enough plays out there to force turnovers?

JG: I don't think so. Cornerback Josh Hawkins had three interceptions in two weeks at South Carolina and Virginia Tech and linebacker Zeek Bigger recorded a pick-6 against the Tar Heels. As I referred to earlier, ECU has committed a few ill-advised turnovers, but obviously been in-sync for most of the time on offensively.

5. Montese Overton looks like he's having a solid year at linebacker, but who are a couple other players to know on the Pirates defense?

JG: Prior to ECU's open date, Bigger led the Football Bowl Subdivision is tackles and is unmistakeable leader on defense, both vocally and on the field. Senior nose tackle Terry Williams returned to the Pirates' rotation along the defensive line against Virginia Tech after missing the first two games with an ankle injury and has been a large impact in the trenches. In addition to Overton, senior linebacker Brandon Williams is off to another great start to the season. Following his two-interception performance in Blacksburg, Hawkins was named the American Athletic Conference's Defensive Player-of-the-Week.

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