ECU Football Preview: Can ECU Do What UCF Did Last Season?

We have been following the Pirates closely as the 2014 season approached for a few good reasons, but mostly to give fans of the American Athletic Conference a better idea of who East Carolina is and what they bring to the league after making the jump from Conference USA. So if you've been following the AAC Blog during the off season, you know that the expectations for ECU's offense are very high and for good reason.

The Pirates have become a fixture during the college football postseason with seven appearances over the course of the last eight years. ECU also won six of their last seven games in 2013 to reach the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, where they defeated Ohio by a hefty final score of 37-20.

East Carolina's 10 wins last season rank second in school history, behind only the Pirates' 11-1 finish in 1991.

East Carolina's 2014 schedule includes two games against teams that finished in the top 10 last season (South Carolina, UCF).

ECU Pirates Offense
QB Shane Carden was second nationally in completion percentage last season (70.5 percent) and threw for 4,139 yards and 33 touchdowns. Carden was the 2013 Conference USA Most Valuable Player.

In just two seasons, WR Justin Hardy has set East Carolina's career records for receiving yards (3,047) and touchdown receptions (25).

RB Breon Allen is expected to take over as the featured tailback. Allen rushed for 311 yards and three TDs last year, behind Vintavious Cooper.

The Pirates ranked eighth nationally in scoring offense last year (40.2 ppg).

ECU Pirates Defense
The Pirates return just three starters from last year's defense. DE Terrell Stanley, who would have been a returning starter on the defensive line, will miss the 2014 season while he recovers from injuries suffered in an automobile accident.

LB Zeek Bigger is the lone returning starter at linebacker. Bigger registered 77 tackles — good for third on the team — with 4.5 tackles for loss last season.

NT Chrishon Rose will be jioned by two new starters on the defensive line. Rose had 31 tackles, 2.5 sacks and six tackles for loss last season as the anchor of the Pirates' 3-4 front.

CB Detric Allen is a fourth-year man at cornerback who looks to provide leadership to an otherwise young secondary.

ECU Pirates Special Teams
K Warren Harvey returns as the starting placekicker. Harvey was 15-of-25 on field goal attempts last season.

P Worth Gregory, a transfer from Alabama, could emerge as the Pirates' new regular punter.

Justin Hardy registered 225 yards on punt returns last season, averaging 11.2 yards per return.

ECU Name You Must Know
Shane Carden: If you want to know why has a shot at winning the conference and Commissioner Mike Aresco is calling him a Heisman candidate, just look at what Carden has done. A conference and national honors candidate heading into his final year after enjoying consecutive record-breaking campaigns as the Pirates' starting quarterback ... A member of the 2014 Maxwell Award Watch List ... Was a Preseason All-American Athletic Conference (first team) selection by Phil Steele's College Football Preview Magazine and Athlon Sports ... Statistically, rates as the top "returning" QB in the American Conference (in ECU's first year of competition) and will enter senior season as the top returner nationally in completion percentage (70.5) ...Has accounted for 75 of 110 offensive TDs (68%) and converted 109-of-122 (89.3%) redzone opportunities as ECU's starter in just two years ...Thrown for over 400 yards on three occasions and authored seven contests over 350, 11 over 300 and 19 over 250 yards ... Is the first QB in school history to pass for over 4,000 yards in a season and one of only two to eclipse 3,000 in back-to-back campaigns ... Has established an ECU single-game passing record on three occasions - 439 vs. Marshall in 2012, 447 vs. Old Dominion and 480 vs. Tulane in 2013 - and equaled a single-game school standard with five TD passes on four occasions - vs. Memphis ('12), Old Dominion, Tulsa and UAB ('13)... Already earned seven career league player-of-the-week awards, including four in 2013 ... Has thrown for a touchdown in 21 of his last 22 games and needs just 1,775 passing yards, 68 completions and seven TD passes to establish ECU career records in those three categories ... Currently ranks among the top five active quarterbacks with four career game-winning drives (UAB and Marshall in 2012, Middle Tennessee and Ohio in 2013) ... Mechanics, accuracy, strength, poise, grittiness and polish have fueled development, while intensity and leadership abilities on and off the field are rivaled by very few ... Tutored by record-setting former Texas Tech signal-caller B.J. Symons during prep career, which enabled an early grasp of the spread scheme ... Completed a combined 34-of-51 throws for 301 yards and two touchdowns in limited action during three spring scrimmages ... Was 13-of-22 for 133 yards in the opening contest on March 31 ... Was sharper a week later, hitting 11-of-14 passes for 108 yards and a TD before closing out spring work with a 10-of-15, 60-yard, one-score effort during the Purple-Gold Game on April 12 ... Work ethic in strength and conditioning program is equally as notable with a back squat of 510 pounds, a bench press of 320, a pro shuttle time of 4.25 and a vertical jump of 31.5" in testing during career ... Participated in Jeff Garcia's Quarterback Camp during the summer (2014).

Portions of the content in this article may contain materials provided courtesy of the American Athletic Conference and the ECU athletic department.