Carden, Williams shine in scrimmagePublished 7:33pm Saturday, April 6, 2013
GREENVILLE — It may only be an exhibition, but when the Pirates gathered for their first scrimmage of the spring practice period Ruffin McNeill still got the same game day goose bumps.
“I was excited about today. I got chills looking down at the Boneyard envisioning our students and this stadium being packed,” McNeill said.
On Saturday, East Carolina’s fourth-year coach had to settle for a more docile atmosphere in the stands of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium but not on the field as the Pirates ran roughly 100 plays during their scrimmage.
Compared to this time a year ago, the Pirates have more answers than questions, most notably at the quarterback position where junior Shane Carden returns as the team’s starter.
“Obviously it’s a little different right now. Last year there was a (QB) competition. This year I’m trying to be more of a vocal leader,” Carden said. “I just have to keep playing and get better at my craft.”
Carden looked pretty good on Saturday as he completed 20 of his 26 pass attempts for 217 yards and accounted for three of ECU’s four scoring passes.
Cody Keith led the second unit and went 15-for-20 for 158 yards and score, while true freshman Kurt Benkert hit on seven of his 14 attempts for 78 yards. Each QB was intercepted once
Danny Webster led all receivers with seven receptions for 89 yard and a touchdown, but it was 6’6” 240-pound sophomore WR/TE Bryce Williams that was breakout star as the Marshall transfer caught five passes for a game-high 93 yards.
“Bryce Williams came out of nowhere,” Carden said. “We’ve seen him make some catches but he came out and had a great day out here.”
The Pirates offense was without running backs Vintavious Cooper (suspension) and Chris Hairston (injury), which left the door open for 5-10 walk-on sophomore Cory Hunter to shine and he did so gaining a game-high 40 yards on 10 attempts.
“Cory Hunter’s been the guy. He showed some things last year on the scout team as far as being a real tough guy,” ECU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “He’s the big beneficiary of all these reps. He’s getting a lot of looks … He’s not great at anything, but he’s pretty good at everything.”
Defensively, ECU has been adjusting to new defensive coordinator Rick Smith’s hybrid 3-4/4-3 scheme and McNeill said he was pleased with the transition so far as the team recorded two interceptions and forced two fumbles.
“I thought they did a good job.” McNeill said. “There’s some things that they have to adjust to a little bit but I thought overall they did a good job.”
Sophomore linebacker Zeek Bigger recorded a game-high 11 tackles, while senior safety Chip Thompson picked off two passes.