Fall Camp Journal: Carden emerging as leader

GREENVILLE – East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden has taken it upon himself to be a team leader and understands the pressure that goes along with it.

To truly understand the amount junior quarterback Shane Carden has grown in the past year, let's turn back the calendar to last August.

Carden was the back-up to eventual starter Rio Johnson and returning from a broken index finger he suffered in the spring. Despite not being named the Pirates' opening day starter, Carden left enough of an impression for head coach Ruffin McNeill to make a quarterback change after pedestrian efforts by Johnson in the first two games.

Then, as the saying goes, the rest was history. Carden passed for 3,116 yards and 23 touchdowns, while scoring a team-best 8 touchdowns on the ground. Now entering his first full season as ECU's starting signal caller, Carden has embraced the challenge of being the team's leader on and off the field.

"This offseason was a big time for me to grow as a leader for this offense and for this team. I'm being a lot more vocal as well," said Carden.

When McNeill returned to his almer mater in 2010, he brought in JUCO transfer Dominique Davis, who is now the back-up quarterback to Matt Ryan on the Atlanta Falcons. For the first time since Davis, McNeill has an experienced signal caller coming back that similar to his coach, came to ECU from the lone-star state (Houston, TX).

"Having Shane go through the year that he's gone through, being a great leader for us really from day one, it's great to have a guy who's been through the wars and understands what (offensive coordinator) Lincoln (Riley) wants offensively.," said McNeill. "I'm excited about Shane. He handles the situation and responsibility very well and I see, no doubt, he'll continue to do that."

In addition to Carden returning, ECU returns seven offensive starters and brings in newcomer Breon Allen, who led the JUCO ranks in rushig last season. Clearly, there's no denying that the talent is there on paper, but the Pirates understand that alone doesn't always translate to wins.

"We try to really push this mentality to our offense as a whole, it will not just happen because we have some people back. That's great, it's a nice starting point, but it's only a starting point," said Riley.

Riley added, "(Carden's) got to understand that the expectations are high and that he needs to continue to get better. I think he's got that mentality and I hope we do offensively."

Earlier this summer, Carden was one of the 30 FBS quarterbacks named to the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) Offensive Watch List and later, ECU was picked by Conference USA's coaches to win league's East Division.

Instead of attempting to shut out all of the speculation from outside of the locker room, the Pirates understand that it comes with the territory.

"You can't keep their head in the sand all of the time. These guys, with social media and the internet and the way news travels, of course they're aware," said Riley. "I think you have to do a good job as a coaching staff on keeping them focused on what's important, and that's us getting better."

With all of his preseason accolades and the various targets he has at his disposal, Carden is focused solely doing his job and nothing more.

"Coach Riley always says not to try and be superman back there," said Carden. "We just concentrate on each game and we don't try to do too much and just make our routine plays."

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