June 20, 2013
2013 Athlon Sports Preseason All-Conference USA Team
GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina's returning first-team all-league choice from last fall, Justin Hardy, headlines a group of seven Pirate selections on Athlon Sports' 2013 Preseason All-Conference USA team according to a release by the magazine Thursday. ECU's seven overall selections rank tied for second in the conference.
Hardy, a junior inside receiver from Vanceboro, and senior offensive guard Will Simmons were both first-team selections. Hardy is coming off a 2012 campaign where he hauled in 88 passes for 1,105 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Simmons, an Ahoskie native who earned second team all-conference recognition last year, helped clear the way for an offensive unit that produced both a 1,000-yard rusher and a 3,000-yard passer. Hardy, who stood third in C-USA with a punt return average of 8.8 last fall, picked up an additional first-team selection as a specialist by Athlon.
Earning spots on the top defensive squad for the Pirates were linebackers Jeremy Grove and Derrell Johnson. Grove, a junior from Fredrick, Maryland, led the team in stops with 83 and ranked tied for second on the squad with two forced fumbles to earn All-Conference USA honors for the second-straight season. Johnson, a senior from Baltimore, Maryland, was an all-league performer last fall and ranked among the top 10 in the league with 7.0 sacks. He also netted 11 stops for lost yardage among his 62 total tackles.
second-team unit were junior quarterback Shane Carden
and senior running back Vintavious Cooper
. Carden turned in the program's third-highest single season passing total last fall with 3,116 yards and 23 touchdowns. After earning the starting assignment in the third game, Carden played a key role in leading the Pirates to a division co-championship and the program's sixth bowl appearance in the last seven years by completing 273-of-413 attempts to earn All-Conference USA honors. Carden ranked among the league leaders in passing efficiency (3rd/143.01), passing yards per game (4th/239.7) and total offense (5th/245.4).
Cooper was selected as C-USA's Newcomer-of-the-Year and earned all-league (second-team) honors after a dazzling debut in ECU's backfield. He appeared in all 13 games, which included eight starts, and authored four 100-yard rushing games (151/UTEP, 172/UAB, 121/Navy, 140/UH). He ran for 1,049 yards on 200 carries (5.2 ypc) with seven touchdowns.
The Pirates open the 2013 season with three straight home games starting with a 7 p.m. contest against Old Dominion on August 31 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.