The Monarchs are led by Walter Payton Award-winning quarterback Taylor Heinicke. In 2012, he completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for over 5,000 yards and 44 touchdowns. As a dual-threat quarterback, Heinicke also rushed in 11 touchdowns.
"Everyone's talking about how well they pass, but their quarterback can run, and get out of the pocket," said inside linebacker Jeremy Grove. "We have to contain him. They also have a few really good running backs in there that can run the ball pretty well."
ECU signal caller Shane Carden is no stranger to running the ball, which has helped the defensive corps prepare for a quarterback who can run while they face him in practice.
"We have a mobile quarterback here, as well, in Shane [Carden]," said outside linebacker Derrell Johnson. "ODU's quarterback runs the ball, but he also loves to throw the ball. His pass yardage is way more impressive than his run yardage. Shane has done a good job preparing us."
The Pirates have been known to feature a solid rush defense in the past. For most of Rick Smith's first tour (2005-2009), they held the opposition to less than four yards per carry. The rush defense backtracked some after he left, but still kept opponents to 4.3 yards per carry last season.
It's been highly documented how troublesome the secondary has been. However, the unit is prepared to show it's just as effective at stopping opponents through the air as the front seven is at stuffing the run.
They throw it a lot and, defensively, we're excited for that," said free safety Damon Magazu. "We've proven in the past that we can stop the run, but the challenge has always been to stop the pass."
Another challenge the Pirates take on is the size and experience of ODU's offensive line. The Monarchs will bring back four of their five linemen and debut a junior college recruit that stands at six and a half feet tall and 350 pound.
Nose tackle Terry Williams welcomes not just that, but all challenges the Monarchs present. As a leader along the defensive-line this season, he's ready to help the Pirates both physically and mentally.
"I just make sure my team stays calm," said Williams. "I have the most confidence in the defense this year. I have a lot of confidence. I know as long as we stay calm, we keep playing ball, we'll be alright."
Now a junior, Williams started nine of 11 games last season and is expected to be the anchor for the Pirates defense.