2014 East Carolina Pirates Team Preview
East Carolina Pirates
Head Coach: Ruffin McNeill
2013 Record: 10-3 overall, 6-2 Conference USA East
2013 Bowl Result: Beat Ohio 37-20 in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl
2013 Returning Starters: 5 offense, 4 defense
Odds to win 2015 College Football Championship Game: field 30-1
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East Carolina went 10-3 in 2013, with the only losses coming to Virginia Tech, Tulane and Marshall. The Marshall game was in the regular season finale and was a winner take all game for the Conference USA East Division title. Marshall would win that game 59-28. The East Carolina Pirates would go on to win the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl 37-20 against Ohio. The season was highlighted by wins over North Carolina and North Carolina State, both by double digits.
East Carolina moves from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference along with Tulsa and Tulane. Only 9 starters are back for East Carolina though under coach Ruffin McNeill.
East Carolina was #12 nationally in passing last year with 328 yards per game, and averaged 140 rushing yards per game. The Pirates were #9 in scoring at 40 points a game. Only five starters are back for coordinator Lincoln Riley.
Senior quarterback Shane Carden is back. He completed 70.5% of his passes for 4,139 yards with 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and he also had 90 carries for 103 yards and 10 touchdowns. Carden is a very dark horse Heisman candidate.
Leading rusher Vintavious Cooper has graduated after rushing for 1,193 yards with 13 touchdowns on 230 carries, and also had 44 catches for 412 yards and a touchdown. Breon Allen is back though and had 62 carries for 311 yards and 3 touchdowns, and also had 9 catches for 130 yards. Chris Hairston will also get more carries after he had 49 carries for 186 yards and 3 touchdowns, and made 6 catches.
Receiver Justin Hardy had 114 catches for 1,284 yards and 8 touchdowns. Isaiah Jones is also back and he had 62 catches for 604 yards and 5 touchdowns. Cam Worthy, tight end Bryce Williams and Davon Grayson will also get a lot of targets in 2014. Those three combined for 11 touchdowns in 2013.
There are some concerns on the offesnive line, although right tackle Tre Robertson is back. Left tackle Ike Harris was in a car crash in February and suffered a shoulder injury. The Pirates hope he is completely healthy by the start of the regular season. Freshman guard Larry Williams has potential.
East Carolina was #36 in total defense last year at 369 yards per game and allowed 25 points per game. Only four starters are back for coordinator Rick Smith. The Pirates led Conference USA in rush defense last year.
The line will be anchored by Chrishon Rose who moves from nose tackle to end. Terry Williams steps in at nose tackle. The unit did take a hit when end Terrell Stanley was involved in the same car accident as Harris. Stanley is out for the season.
The linebackers should be strong with Montese Overton on the outside, and middle linebackers Zeek Bigger and Brandon Williams.
Corner Detric Allen is back at corner but the other three starters must be replaced. Josh Hawkins and free safety Lamar Ivey should step into starting roles.
Kicker Warren Harvey is back and made 15 of 25 field goals last year. Alabama transfer Worth Gregory will handle the punting duties. Hardy averaged 11.2 yards per punt return last year and could handle kick return duties as well.
Outlook / Schedule
East Carolina opens with North Carolina Central at home. However, the non-conference schedule gets much more difficult with trips to South Carolina and Virginia Tech plus a home a game against North Carolina. In conference, the Pirates host SMU, Connecticut, Tulane and Central Florida. East Carolina travels to South Florida, Temple, Cincinnati and Tulsa. There is a very good chance the Pirates will be 1-3 entering conference play. Games against conference favorites Cincinnati and Central Florida will also be tough. I think ECU wins six games and goes to a bowl.
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