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ECU football wants to maintain success

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/05/19/35/Tculg.Em.138.jpeg|412
    Gerry Broome - AP
    East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden takes a snap during practice in Greenville, N.C., Tuesday.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/05/19/35/1mKXcg.Em.138.jpeg|198
    Gerry Broome - AP
    East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill works with running back Cory Hunter (26) during practice in Greenville.

GREENVILLE, N.C. Last year East Carolina recorded the second-most wins in school history and earned a bowl victory for the first time since 2007, but right now that means nothing to Shane Carden.

The Pirates record-setting senior quarterback said the key to duplicating last season’s success is to employ selective amnesia.

“We have to completely forget about last year,” the 2013 Conference USA MVP said Tuesday during East Carolina’s media. “Last year is over. There’s no yards, there’s no wins, there’s no touchdowns that carry over.

“This is a new team. Last year is over. I’m not the same Shane as last year, (Justin) Hardy isn’t the same Hardy as last year, and I think we’ve done a good job so far of getting over that.”

While Carden may not be the same as last year, the Pirates are hoping that he can look a lot like the guy who completed 70.5 percent of his passes for a school-record 4,139 yards and 33 touchdown passes to lead ECU to a 10-3 (6-2) record and victory over Ohio in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl as the Pirates enter their first season in the American Athletic Conference.

Despite last year’s success, East Carolina was picked to place fourth in the AAC this season behind Cincinnati, Central Florida and Houston. While the prediction isn’t necessarily a slight, it no doubt inspired the “No respect” feelings the Pirates harbor.

“This program has had a chip on its shoulder way, way before I got here,” Carden said. “This program’s all about chip on our shoulder. … We’re a hard-nosed team. We’re blue collar and we’ve worked our (butts) off this offseason, and we’re looking forward to putting that on the field.”

The Pirates, who held their first practice of fall camp on Monday, return a total of nine starters from last year’s squad (6 on offense, 3 on defense), but have a slew of players that recorded quality minutes. That depth has fifth-year coach Ruffin McNeill feeling confident in his team.

“I feel comfortable at every position we have,” McNeill said. “We have competitive talent and athletic talent at all positions. … I like the competition at every position.”

McNeill would not go as far as to say this is the best East Carolina team he has assembled so far, but did say the potential is there.

“At the end of the season I will be able to tell you that,” McNeill said. “But, I like the chemistry that we have, and I like the continuity on our staff. That’s what makes me feel comfortable. We have a chance to be (the best) because the leadership corps is there. We need to be consistent in our preparation. That will be the key.”

The Pirates will take their first step toward besting last season on Aug. 30, when they host North Carolina Central in their season opener.

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