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Pirate Notebook No. 520
Monday, October 21, 2013

Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien

Leadership magnifies Carden's skills

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

Even by East Carolina standards, Shane Carden is setting a torrid pace. At a school with a long legacy of prolific quarterbacks, Carden is carving a path towards the top of the ECU record books.

And he’s doing it with surgeon-like precision.

Through seven games, the Pirates quarterback is completing nearly 75% of his passes, which ranks him tops nationally. He already has 2,325 yards passing – good for an average of 332 yards per game – and has 16 touchdown tosses against only five interceptions.

If he maintains his current pace, he will finish the regular season with nearly 4,000 yards and potentially have two games remaining. Pretty impressive when you consider the number of receivers ECU has cycled through this season.

But as impressive as Carden has been at slicing defenses, the junior's best trait has been his evolution as a leader.

Following the Pirates' loss last week at Tulane, Carden deflected any criticism aimed towards Pirates kicker Warren Harvey after missing three field goals. He followed it up this week by igniting the locker room after a sluggish start to the week.

“A few of the seniors and I understand that we put a lot into this over the last four, five years,” Carden said. “To have a loss like (Tulane), we still have all of our goals in front of us after that loss.

“You can’t let that beat you twice. Maybe the mentality wasn’t quite right Sunday night when we first came out. A couple of us got it up and got it going, and the rest of the week we had some great practices.”

Pirates head coach Ruffin McNeill noted that Carden isn’t just considered the captain of the ECU offense. He’s also the clear-cut leader of the team.

Given his talent, drive, and competitive nature, you can’t help but think Carden’s best games are still ahead. That’s a scary proposition for ECU opponents.

Next man up

You can hardly blame McNeill if he’s lost count of the number of receivers who have disappeared from the ECU depth chart. Since the Pirates exited spring practice, they’ve lost nine receivers to either injuries or suspension.

One man’s absence from the lineup has meant another man’s opportunity. Freshman receiver DaQuan Barnes is the latest to emerge with a breakout game against Southern Miss.

Barnes, who is the fastest timed player on the Pirates’ roster, caught three passes for 47 yards in the Pirates’ 55-14 win while adding 12 yards on a reverse. Another in a growing line of walk-on receivers for ECU, the ceiling appears to be high for Barnes.

As he grows more comfortable in the Pirates’ offense, Barnes could become one of ECU’s better big-play threats.

Red zone focus

After two weeks of struggling to convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns, the East Carolina offense bounced back against Southern Miss.

The Pirates placed a lot of emphasis on red zone efficiency this week, and it certainly paid off.

“We had some problems in the red zone and everyone knows that,” Carden said. “We talked about it. We were very much focused on finishing drives, getting touchdowns instead of field goals.

"We were able to do that. It was a big emphasis for us this last week at practice.”

Much of the Pirates’ success Saturday can be attributed to a variety of formations and calls. ECU scored off a one-yard fade, play-action to the tight end, a draw on third-and-long, and on a quarterback keeper.

The QB sneak occurred with Carden setting up under center. Credit offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley for demonstrating more red zone balance this week.

E-mail Denny O'Brien

PAGE UPDATED 10/21/13 01:27 AM.

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