Pirates To Monitor Carden's Playing Time

GREENVILLE, N.C. — If ECU is up big against North Carolina Central Saturday, coaches will have to decide whether to remove Shane Carden from the game.

East Carolina could find itself in a unique dilemma this weekend that any coach in the country would prefer to be in.

American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco labeled the Pirates’ star quarterback, Shane Carden, as a potential dark-horse candidate for the Heisman trophy this offseason after the senior became the first player in school history to pass for four thousand yards in a season.

However, in order for Carden or anyone else to validate their candidacy for such an honor, they must consistently turn in spectacular outings in which they produce astronomical statistics and eye-popping plays that set themselves apart from the pack.

But how far do you go to ensure a Heisman hopeful a chance to stand out without jeopardizing him and the team by risking an injury?

ECU is an overwhelmingly heavy favorite for its season opener against North Carolina Central Saturday and there is a realistic chance that the Pirates could be up by a wide-margin early in the game.

So what happens if that is the case, but Carden has thrown for just 150 yards and one score? Would fifth-year coach Ruffin McNeill put him back in the game? And if he does, can he justify his decision if Carden suffers a serious injury with the game already in hand?

McNeill dismissed the notion of dishing out any kind of special treatment during his weekly press conference Monday and said his quarterback, who fittingly owns the nickname, “Captain,” is on the same page.

“Shane is one of the leaders that keeps us focused on the commitment to our team and our mission. Shane will not go outside of that,” McNeill said. “We’re worried about winning by one and getting out of there, and so is Shane."

Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley added, “In any game, if we get up where we feel the game is in hand, we’re going to put (backup) Kurt (Benkert) in. Winning is the No. 1 thing for the team.”

Even if Carden is spelled, he won’t have to wait long to prove himself against top-tier competition — ECU will face No. 9 South Carolina, Virginia Tech and No. 23 North Carolina in the three weeks following Saturday’s meeting with the Eagles.

But as McNeill and Riley alluded to, Carden is on page with whatever decision the coaching staff makes and understands that individual accolades stem off winning.

“I’m in the business of the winning games,” Carden told Inside ECU Sports. “You never see a Heisman player up there that has a team that’s not any good and not winning games.”

Carden was named to several award watch lists over the offseason — including the Davey O’Brien, Maxwell and Walter Camp awards — but if a national award isn’t in the cards, there are still plenty of milestones in play for the senior quarterback.

He needs just 1,775 passing yards, 68 completions and seven touchdown passes to establish ECU career records in those three categories.

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