N&O debate: Would ECU’s Carden start for UNC, Duke and NC State?

Each week during college football season, columnist Luke DeCock and our college reporters will answer the most important questions of the weekend. Our roundtable discussion begins with the seemingly under-appreciated East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden.

1. East Carolina plays at South Carolina this week, so now’s a good time to talk about Pirates quarterback Shane Carden. He passed for more than 4,000 yards and 33 touchdowns last season and is off to a good start this season. True or false: Carden would start for every ACC team in this state.

Andrew Carter (UNC beat reporter): True. No one seems to talk much about Carden, either nationally or locally, but he’s the best quarterback in the state, and he’d easily start at North Carolina and N.C. State. The only question is whether he’d start over Duke’s Anthony Boone, and, while it’s debatable, if you ask yourself the old cliché question – if you had to pick one quarterback to win one game – I’d go with Carden.

Luke DeCock: True. As good as Boone is, and as much as Carden is a product of East Carolina’s system, and even though David Cutcliffe has increasingly come to value mobility in his quarterbacks, Carden is experienced, talented and productive with a bona fide NFL arm. And if he’d start over Boone, he’s a lock at the other three schools.

Joe Giglio (N.C. State beat reporter): True. Carden had six passing touchdowns, five more rushing and 631 passing yards in a pair of lopsided wins over UNC and N.C. State last year, so you would have to think their respective coaches were sufficiently impressed with the Houston native. Duke coach David Cutcliffe has shown ability to coach and use quarterbacks of all shapes and sizes — usually more than one a game — so that’s a yes for the Blue Devils. And, of course, he would start for Wake Forest.

Laura Keeley (Duke beat reporter): False. I’m going to revert back to my schooling days and dig up a rule for standardized testing: If something is partially false, then it’s all false. I can’t imagine N.C. State would trade Jacoby Brissett for Shane Carden.

2. Poor Wake Forest. Oh so close against Louisiana-Monroe last week. Next up: Gardner-Webb. The Demon Deacons should be in OK shape this week, but does this team win another game this season?

Carter: Wake was going to be in rough shape this season, and that was before injuries took their toll in the preseason. As it is, this looks like it could be a historically bad team – the kind that only comes around every so often. The Demon Deacons should be set against Gardner-Webb, but there’s not another sure win on the schedule, and you have to think this team will be hard pressed to win an ACC game.

DeCock: If Wake Forest can beat Army, the Demon Deacons may be able to put a ‘2’ in the win column. But N.C. State went 0-8 in ACC play last season, and based on early returns, that struggling Wolfpack team was an order of magnitude better than what we saw from Wake Forest. The offensive line is a mess, which would be bad enough if the Deacons weren’t starting a true freshman at quarterback. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Giglio: I was actually impressed with Wake’s defense against Louisiana-Monroe. There’s more talent there than they are being given credit for. Not only do I think Wake will beat Gardner-Webb this week and then Army on Sept. 20, I think the Deacs will beat Syracuse for an ACC win on Oct. 18.

Keeley: Are we sure they’re going to beat Gardner-Webb? Isn’t even a basic offense a requirement to win a football game? Because with quarterback John Wolford constantly running for his life (and still getting sacked seven times), that doesn’t leave much time to actually advance the ball downfield. I’m not so sure the Deacs will beat Gardner-Webb.

3. It’s another seemingly dull docket of games for Triangle teams this week, though things were close last week for a while in Chapel Hill and all the way to the end in Raleigh. Among the games at Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State, what surprised you most about week 1?

Carter: That UNC started as sluggishly as it did against Liberty. It didn’t matter in the end, what with that four-touchdowns-in-four-minutes stretch in the third quarter, but for a while – a long while – the result really was in doubt. UNC should beat San Diego State, but how close of a game that turns out to be could depend on how the Tar Heels start the game.

DeCock: I really thought Mitch Trubisky would see more time at quarterback for North Carolina, and perhaps even start over Marquise Williams. As impressive as Williams was taking over for Bryn Renner last season, coaches love their own recruits and Trubisky didn’t come to Chapel Hill to watch.

Giglio: I was surprised N.C. State didn’t have more juice out of the gate. Even last year’s State team had some jump in the opener. Maybe it’s their youth, but the Wolfpack did not look energized in the first 30 minutes, which after a long offseason from a 3-9 season, probably shouldn’t have happened. State got away with the slow start and pulled out the win in the fourth quarter, which should bode well for this week’s tilt with a pass-happy Old Dominion team.

Keeley: That Duke played true freshman tight end Davis Koppenhaver. Cutcliffe had been on the fence about it earlier in the week. With starter Braxton Deaver going down in the preseason with a torn ACL, there is more of an opportunity to play there than expected, but there are still two players (D.J. Reeves and Erich Schneider) ahead of him on the depth chart. It will be interesting to see how many snaps Koppenhaver gets as the season goes forward.

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