Coming off an impressive 10-win 2013, and now moving to the AAC, East Carolina seems to be poised for a huge 2014 season. The Pirates’ journey to a potential spot in a big time bowl game will start on Saturday, when they host the North Carolina Central Eagles of the MEAC.
The Pirates seem to be coming full speed ahead into the new season, with an explosive offense led by senior quarterback Shane Carden and a multitude of receivers ranging in experience.
The backfield will have a question mark with the loss of Vintavious Cooper, but in this particular offense, the position seems to be moreso used like an extra receiver. ECU will have a senior in Breon Allen in the backfield, who rushed for over 300 yards last season behind Cooper’s 1,200+ yards.
The defense will also be something to keep an eye on. While the offense scored an average of just around 35 points per game, the defense gave up nearly 30 points per game in the second half of 2013.
While an improvement from last year, head coach Ruffin McNeill and defensive coordinator Rick Smith will look to improve upon the 3-4 scheme that put the Pirates at 91st in defensive rankings.
The Opponent: North Carolina Central Eagles
NC Central is coming off a 5-7 record in 2013 and have a first-year head coach in Jerry Mack. The Eagles aren’t expected to fare that well in the MEAC, as they finished tied for 8th in the 11-team league last year.
They have 14 returning starters, but are making a multitude of transitions; such as offensive playstyle, a quarterback who will be making his first start, as well as two newly-transferred wide receivers.
The Eagles are solid on defense, with seven returning starters primarily on the defensive line and in the secondary.
Their biggest playmaker is junior Adrian Wilkins, who led the FCS in special teams touchdowns last year (5 total on kickoffs and punt returns), and averaged 13.4 yards per punt return. Wilkins also doubles as a wideout, where he caught 37 passes for 432 yards in 2013.
NC Central seems to be a great opening game, and ECU should treat this as a tune-up before heading to Columbia to face South Carolina next Saturday. If the Gamecocks’ performance against Texas A&M is any indication, we could be looking at one of the biggest upsets in recent memory.
That said, we’re still a week away from that, so for now, let’s enjoy that Pirate football (and college football in general) is back.
Plus, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to see these sharp new uniforms in action.
— PIRATE EQUIPMENT (@pirateequipment) August 3, 2014
Helmet decal night! pic.twitter.com/EGv6GiOIOx
— PIRATE EQUIPMENT (@pirateequipment) August 28, 2014
East Carolina -42
NC Central – 14