Justin Hardy is East Carolina's go-to wide receiver

East Carolina junior wide receiver Justin Hardy is the nation's fourth-leading receiver, with 20 catches through two games, and he can make some national noise Saturday against visiting Virginia Tech.

The Hokies have the best secondary Hardy and the Pirates will face this season, but a big day from Hardy -- and quarterback Shane Carden -- is the only way East Carolina can pull the upset.

Hardy's 20 receptions have covered 227 yards (11.4 yards per catch) and he has scored once. Hardy (6 feet, 186 pounds) had 88 receptions for 1,105 yards (12.6 yards per catch) and 11 touchdowns last season.

Hardy, a former walk-on, has been clocked as fast as 4.43 seconds in the 40, but it's his elusiveness more than his speed that makes him dangerous. In addition, he has excellent hands and has shown he can work out of the slot as well as lining up wide.

"He's a dynamic player," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer told reporters this week. "He's a punt returner for them, too, and I mean he's legit."

Hardy will have a chance to live up to Beamer's words when he faces Virginia Tech. Even without star corner Antone Exum, recovering from a knee injury, the Hokies have a solid secondary headed by the Fuller brothers at corner (Kendall and Kyle) and Kyshoen Jarrett, a converted corner, at strong safety. Free safety Detrick Bonner, another converted corner, rounds out the starting quartet.

Hardy already is second in school history in career receptions with 172, and if he remains for his senior season, he stands an excellent chance of leaving as East Carolina's career leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs. Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris is ECU's current leader in receptions and yards; Lance Lewis, who is on the Washington Redskins' practice squad, is the current leader in TD receptions.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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