Entering his second season as the outside receivers coach, Dave Nichol knows the talent is there and has seen glimpses of it, but it all comes down to consistency.
"It's everything. We talk about attitude and consistency and if you work hard to try and be good at those things, we're going to be a good offense," said Nichol. "There's definitely some explosiveness I don't think we've had the last couple of years."
There are a slew of candidates who will be vying for that starting job when the Pirates host Old Dominion on Aug. 31. Many of whom bring different qualities and amounts of experience to the table.
After a disappointing 2012 campaign, Reese Wiggins returns for his senior year poised to make a more significant impact. He had just 25 receptions and one touchdown, which are both fewer than the totals he posted as a sophomore in those categories. With that behind him, Wiggins remains the likely favorite going into fall camp.
"We were very happy coming out of the spring with Reese," said Nichol. "Reese is very intelligent and can play numerous positions."
Redshirt freshman Quataye Smyre may not be a name ECU fans know about yet, but will likely play in various situations given his unique skill set.
"He's going to flash and have a great play and do something you can't coach" said Nichol. "(Smyre) can make the wild play, but what about those other six or seven plays that maybe even fans don't even notice, but are key? … That's what Quataye has got to keep understanding."
Over the last three seasons, Justin Jones has shown flashes of being the receiver fans expected him to be when hauled in the last-second Hail Mary to beat Tulsa in the first game of his freshman year. Similar to the players we've listed, he's struggled with consistency, but unlike them, Nichol sees parallels between Jones and a player he used to coach at Arizona: Rob Gronkowski.
"Robby was the ultimate freak … I'd say from a size standpoint they're similar and they are both pretty athletic," said Nichol, who went on to disclaim, "I don't know if I will ever be around a guy who did so many things so well and he had an incredibly competitive streak."
Before coming to ECU last spring, Nichol spent five years in Tucson, AZ, and coached explosive offenses featuring the likes of Nick Foles, Juron Criner and Gronkowski. With Shane Carden going into his first full season as a starter and Hardy returning as well, Nichol expects similar results.
"It's all similar. We all come from the same family as far as x's and o's … it's definitely a receiver-and-quarterback friendly offense," said Nichol. "Nowadays, it all starts with your trigger man."
Carden threw for 3,116 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2012 – completing 66 percent of his passes – and also, rushed for a team-best 8 touchdowns. Now his challenge is to sustain his success and grow into one of the team's leaders.
"We hope that Shane being a junior and having all of those starts under his belt, he can start doing some things on his own, checking some plays and feel a lot more comfortable in the offense," said Nichol.