IRVING, Texas – East Carolina had 24 players named to All-Conference USA Football Teams, according to an announcement by the league office Tuesday. Headlining the Pirates’ selections were junior QB Shane Carden, junior WR Justin Hardy and senior OL Will Simmons.
ECU placed five seniors on the second-team in RB Vintavious Cooper, OL Jordan Davis, OLB Derrell Johnson, FS Damon Magazu and DE Lee Pegues, while WR Isaiah Jones, DT Demetri McGill and LB Dayon Pratt were all named to the C-USA All-Freshman squad.
As the Pirates top signal caller, Carden has passed for a league-high 3,866 yards, completing a nation-best 71.0 percent of his passes (358-of-504) with 32 TDs – finding an FBS-best 10 different receivers for at least one score. He has also added 10 ground scores to rank second on the team behind Cooper’s 11. A four-time C-USA Player-of-the-Week honoree, Carden has engineered a Pirate offense that has racked up 500 yards or more of total offense five times, including a pair of 600-plus yard contests. He is the lone C-USA quarterback with 400-plus passing yards in a game this season (447/ODU, 480/Tulane) and has authored a league-best seven 300-yard air efforts.
The Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award semifinalist, who is on pace to break the school's single-season completions and passing yards record, has already set the ECU single-game standard for completions (46/ODU), passing yards (480/Tulane) and TDs accounted for (7/Tulsa), while tying his own mark with five passing scores on three occasions (ODU, Tulsa, UAB).
Hardy, who earned his second-straight first-team honor, is a three-year starter who owns the school record for career touchdown receptions with 25. He currently ranks second on ECU’s all-time receiving charts in receptions (254) and receiving yards (2,981), trailing on Dwayne Harris. Hardy has nabbed at least three catches in all 35 career games played, recorded nine 100-yard and nine double-digit career reception games, and hauled down at least one TD pass in 24 contests.
A semifinalist for the Burlsworth Trophy, Hardy became the first Pirate receiver to post consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, following a 1,105-yard campaign in 2012 with 1,218 so far in 2013. This season, he leads Conference USA and stands among the top 15 nationally in receptions per game (6th/8.8 pg), total receiving yards (12th/1,218) and receiving yards per game (14th/101.5 pg). Against Tulane, Hardy caught a single-game school record 17 balls for 230 yards, besting his 16-catch, 191-yard game in the season opener against Old Dominion.
Simmons, a two-time All C-USA selection, has started all 12 games at right guard pushing his consecutive start streak to 37 games topping all Pirates on the offensive side of the ball. The Ahoskie, N.C. native has been a key member of an offensive unit that has produced 440 yards or more of total offense nine times, while opening running lanes for Cooper’s three 100-yard rushing contests. Following a 55-31 win at in-state rival North Carolina, where the Pirates ran a school-record 101 plays and amassed 603 yards of total offense, he and the offensive line unit earned Beyond Sports Network Offensive Line-of-the-Week accolades.
Cooper, who took home his second-straight C-USA honor, has rushed for a team-best 995 yards on 205 carries with 11 touchdowns and is five yards shy of becoming the third running back in school history with back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons. He has produced three 100-yard rushing games, including a career-best 186 yards at North Carolina – the 18th most in school history, while catching 41 passes for 390 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield.
A three-starter at left guard, Davis has appeared in 49 career contests with 32-straight starts. He has been a part of an offensive unit that has provided pass protection for 26 300-yard passing games over the last four seasons, while helping the Pirates garner top 20 national ranking in passing offense in 2010 (No. 8/317.7 ypg), 2011 (No. 20/286.1 ypg) and 2013 (No. 10/331.5 ypg).
Just like Cooper, Johnson has garnered consecutive second-team accolades after leading Conference USA with 7.5 sacks. The team leader in total stops (79), TFLs (13.5) and quarterback hurries (eight), Johnson currently owns the longest active FBS starting streak (48) and has helped the Pirate defense to a pair of top 15 national rankings in sacks (14th/2.9 pg) and rush defense (15th/117.5 pg).
An honorable mention selection a year ago, Magazu has started all 12 games at free safety recording a team second-best 75 tackles (37 solo), while leading the Pirates with four interceptions pushing his career total to 10. He booked a season-high 11 stops on three occasions (ODU, MTSU, Marshall) and was a key member in helping the defensive unit hold six of its opponents to 17 or fewer points in a contest, including a season-low 14 against UAB.
Pegues rounds out the Pirates all-conference selection taking home his first career honor after earning honorable mention status last season. The defensive end will be appearing in his third bowl game when the Pirates square off against Ohio in the Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl on December 23rd. On the season, Pegues has booked 27 tackles (nine solo) and ranks fourth on the team with 4.5 sacks for minus 23 yards. Against FAU he registered a career-best 3.0 sacks (-14 yards), which is tied for the third-most by an FBS player in 2013. In all, he has 6.0 TFLs, three QBHs, pass breakup, forced fumble and fumble recovery. Following ECU’s bowl game, he is scheduled to participate in the South Carolina All-Star Game.
Jones earned inclusion on the league’s all-freshman team after starting seven of 12 games at wide receiver. In his first year with the Pirates, Jones ranks second behind Hardy in receptions (54) and yards (556), while tying Bryce Williams for second in TD catches. He has recorded multiple receptions in 11 games and authored a pair of 100-yard receiving contests (104/Tulsa, 123/Marshall).
As a true freshman, McGill played in nine games at nose tackle booking six tackles with one sack coming at FIU (two yards). He made his collegiate debut at North Carolina recording a solo tackle before adding stops against Middle Tennessee, Tulane and Tulsa.
Pratt appeared in eight games in a reserve role in the Pirates’ secondary and as a member of the special teams unit. During his redshirt freshman season, he registered six tackles (four solo) with three coming on various kickoff and punt teams.
ECU also had 13 honorable mention selections in OL Adhem Elsawi, TE Bryce Williams, WR Lance Ray, WR Reese Wiggins, NT Chrishon Rose, DE Terrell Stanley, ILB Zeek Bigger, ILB Kyle Tudor, LB Gabe Woullard, CB Adonis Armstrong, SS Chip Thompson, P Trent Tignor and LS Charlie Coggins.
The league's individual awards will be released Wednesday, December 11. Conference USA will conclude the 2013 season by sending six teams to bowl games.