Offense ready to go

Three days and counting until East Carolina opens up the regular season inside Dowdy-Ficklen against the Old Dominion Monarchs. Inside ECU Sports was at practice to speak with key offensive players about their preparation for Saturday.

Rewind a year. ECU would be gearing up for their home-opener against Appalachian State with quarterback Rio Johnson at the helm and defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell calling the shots on defense.

It's safe to say a lot can change in a year and the Pirates have a new defensive coordinator (Rick Smith) and a completely different solidified starter at quarterback in junior Shane Carden.

In 2012, Carden became just the third ECU passer to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season an extremely impressive stat since he didn't take the role of starter until after the third game of the season.

"A year ago at this time I was pretty bummed out," Carden said. "I stuck with it and things turned around for me. Having a year under my belt now and the amount of time I've got in this offense, the receivers, running backs and the line getting our timing down gives us so much confidence."

Senior running back Vintavious Cooper was suspended for all of spring camp after being cited for a misdemeanor possession of marijuana. He has since been fully reinstated and is putting it behind him.

"I learned to never take anything for granted and stay level-headed," Cooper said. "I've come a long way and learned a lot from my mistake and it'll never happen again. I disappointed myself, I disappointed my family and the people of the Pirate Nation."

Sophomore running back Cory Hunter took advantage of Cooper's absence in the spring and carried his confidence into the fall. The recent release of the depth chart shows a ‘running back by committee' approach with both backs splitting time and Cooper with the start.

"Cory (Hunter) has great vision and strength," Cooper said. "There aren't many running backs as strong or as powerful as he is, it's going to take two or three guys to bring him down. I've never been the type of person to be complacent and feel like since I've won the job that I should take my foot off the pedal. The ultimate goal is to win and if it takes Cory coming in to fill the void, I'll never be selfish about that."

After being a late-season standout as a sophomore, senior outside wide receiver Reese Wiggins didn't have the breakout junior year last season most thought he would have. He tied for fifth on the team with 25 receptions for 208 yards and only one touchdown.

2013 is a new year for Wiggins and he's aware that he needs to step up as a leader.

"Being a senior I've experienced a lot of things," Wiggins said. "I try to share that with other players while also staying on top of my job. I know if I'm not doing right than nobody else will act right."

Another senior outside wide receiver, Lance Ray, will be splitting time with Wiggins at the X (outside wide receiver) position. Wiggins is confident both players bring different looks for opposing defenses.

"We bring two different elements to the game," Wiggins said. "We're both fast, but Lance is a bigger guy. I'm more of the shifty type speed guy so it's always fun to have that pound action with the ability to hit them over the top. There are enough balls to go around for everybody and it's going to be fun for both of us."

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