Jul 24, 2013
East Carolina University has high expectations for the upcoming football season and believe the squad can live up to the coaches’ preseason prediction to win the Conference USA East Division crown.
The Pirates have the second most returning starters, 16, in the FBS including running back Vintavious Cooper, wide receiver Justin Hardy, linebacker Derrell Johnson and offensive lineman Will Simmons.
Pirates head coach Ruffin McNeil, who received a contract extension through 2017 season in June, said the front seven is the key to success on the defense this year and believes the squad has depth on the line.
ECU finished last season strong by winning their final three regular season games and scoring at least 34 points in five of the last seven games. The Pirates fell short against Louisiana-Lafayette, 43-34, in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. McNeil said he doesn’t see the game as a loss, rather the team just ran out of time.
Quarterback Shane Carden didn’t begin the 2012 campaign as the starting signal caller, but he did take over in the second game of this season on the road against the University of South Carolina. The rising junior continued to show progress throughout the course of the season and finished with a total of 3,116 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In his best performance last season, Carden threw for 308 yards, five touchdowns and a season-high 204.2 passer rating against Memphis.
“I’m more excited about the opportunity this year to come in immediately and get this offense starting fast,” Carden said Wednesday while at C-USA Media Day in Irving, Texas.
McNeill and Carden used the phrase “starting fast” repeatedly Wednesday, emphasizing getting out to early leads.
The Pirates have taken the approach of not listening to outside noise because it doesn’t change the team’s philosophy or preparation.
“We have higher expectations within the program than outside of the program,” said McNeill.
In his three seasons at ECU, McNeill has an overall record of 19-19 and a conference record of 16-8. He feels last season was one to build on.
“It was one of the most satisfying times in my career and one of the most challenging times at one point,” McNeill said. “It was one of the most satisfying to watch the team grow.”
The Pirates season opener against Old Dominion will take place Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. ET in Greenville.