Come April, the NFL’s welcoming of East Carolina wide receiver Justin Hardy and quarterback Shane Carden only suits one side of the parties. The Pirates, fans, and university, like a middle-school couple, still attempt to grasp the fingers of the superstars as they will depart for the next level.
Are they honestly at fault? C’mon, you can’t blame them.
The one-two punch created a dynasty-like franchise for East Carolina University spanning the recent three years. In 2015, will this be a process of rebuilding the offense or reloading?
First, let’s spend a few minutes to mull over what the Pirates are losing with Carden and Hardy. Then, you be the judge. Prior to becoming members of the American Athletic Conference in 2014, the then-Conference-USA Pirates were led by a 6’2″, 221 pound quarterback by the name of Shane Carden.
No dual-threat availability in the arsenal, no 4.3 speed, and no shiftiness that college football fans gawk over. Just your prototypical pocket passer. Carden tore the C-USA defenses up, and that is being kind to the other teams.
He had an astounding 7,255 yards, 56 touchdowns, and only 20 interceptions. Would the pendulum swing the other direction in a more competitive conference?
While the cynics perceived the Pirates as the runts of the AAC, Carden once again dazzled in 2014, throwing for a career-high 4,736 yards and a 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio. East Carolina’s success was based primarily on Carden’s play on the field, but who would Batman be without Robin?
Justin Hardy, the six-footer residing from Vanceboro, North Carolina, may very well top the draft as the most underrated receiver. Carden’s favorite target developed and matured as his tenure progressed, seeing increases in completions, touchdowns, and yards in every season wearing the purple and yellow. His 1,494 yards led the team–no surprise there. The next receiver in line was Cam Worthy with 1,016 yards. Worthy will also cut ties with ECU as he scratches the NFL draft surface.
So, let’s dissect what offensive production we have forthcoming (puts on eye glasses, raises paper up to light, squints hard).
Ah, Isaiah Jones, there we are.
The sophomore, even with an already-present Hardy on offense, added contributions last season as his 830 yards were good enough for third on the stat sheet.
The Pirates’ next season will depend on Jones along with underclassmen Trevon Brown, Davon Grayson, and Jimmy Williams, with all three getting considerable time at receiver.
The running back position is just as depleted, however. After a breakout senior year, ECU will miss the presence of Breon Allen, a guy who complimented an efficient aerial attack. With the amount of names off the offensive roster for East Carolina in 2015, it’d be more than bold to claim a repeat of 2014.
It may turn towards a rebuild, but the AAC is merely a mediocre conference. Head coach Ruffin McNeill will surely miss the athletes that helped build the program, but if we’ve learned anything, it’s that these smaller programs can sustain long-term success.
Give it a few seasons, but ECU’s offense should be just fine.