East Carolina juniors Shane Carden and Justin Hardy headline eight Pirates named to Phil Steele Magazine’s Midseason All-Conference USA Teams the publication announced Tuesday. Carden, a quarterback and Hardy a wide receiver, are first-team representatives along with offensive linemen Adhem Elsawi and Will Simmons. Outside linebacker Derrell Johnson, free safety Damon Magazu and defensive end Terrell Stanley garnered second-team honors and return specialist Lance Ray was named to the third team.
Carden, who is on pace to set the school single-season records for completions and passing yards, is a two-time C-USA Player-of-the-Week selection following impressive performances against Old Dominion (46-of-54, 447 yards, 5 pass TDs) and at North Carolina (32-of-47, 376, 3 pass and 3 rush TDs). Halfway through the season, the Houston, Texas prep product has completed 73.6 percent of his passes (198-of-269) for 2,017 yards with 13 TDs - all ranking among the Top-20 nationally. Against ODU he established a new single-game record for completions (46) and passing yards (447), only to break his own yardage record last week at Tulane with 480 yards in the air. In four of six contests he has passed for 300-plus yards, including a pair of 400-yard games, which leads all C-USA quarterbacks.
Like Carden, Hardy is well on his way to setting new single-season records for receptions and receiving yards having already hauled down 57 passes for 639 yards and three scores. A two-time Biletnikoff Award Watch List candidate, Hardy has recorded a pair of double-digit and 100-yard receiving games, including a single-game record 17 catches for 230 yards last week at Tulane, eclipsing the latter record which stood for 38 years.
Elsawi and Simmons have anchored an offensive line that has helped the Pirates record 481 or more yards in four of six games, including three-straight 500-plus yard contests. Elsawi, who has started 26 career games on the line – all six this season at right tackle, was a preseason First-Team All C-USA selection by Phil Steele Magazine. Simmons has started 31-straight games at right guard and was a preseason Outland Trophy Watch List candidate and first-team all-conference selection by the leagues’ coaches, Athlon Sports and Phil Steele Magazine.
Johnson and Stanley anchor a defensive unit that ranks third nationally against the run, allowing 81.3 yards per game while holding five of six opponents to 100 or less yards. A preseason Butkus Award Watch List candidate, Johnson leads the team in TFLs (7.5 for -37 yards) and QBHs (five), while sharing the lead in total tackles (39) and sacks (3.5 for -27 yards). Stanley is enjoying a solid year in the trenches, sharing the team lead in sacks (3.5 for -24 yards) and ranking second behind Johnson in total TFLs (6.0 for -27 yards). The sophomore from Southport, N.C. has enjoyed a run of posting at least one TFL in five-straight contests (sacks in four of his last five games) and has tallied 20 tackles (10 solo).
For the fourth-straight year Magazu has been a staple in the Pirates’ secondary having started 30 of his last 31 games. A second-team preseason all-conference selection by Phil Steele Magazine, he shares the team lead in tackles (39) and interceptions (two), picking off his seventh and eighth career passes in back-to-back games against Middle Tennessee and Tulane. Against both Old Dominion and the Blue Raiders, he topped all defensive players with 11 stops giving him four career double-digit contests.
Ray rounds out the Pirates’ midseason selections as a kickoff return specialist. The Quincy, Fla. native ranks 11th nationally in kickoff return average (30.2 ypr), has already tallied 85 (FAU) and 51-yard (MTSU) returns this season and recently contributed 191 yards on seven returns (27.3 ypr) in his last three games. Ray opened his Pirate career in 2012 against Appalachian State returning his lone kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter – a first at ECU since 2010. In two years as ECU’s top returner, he has amassed 652 yards on 25 returns for a 26.1 average, which ranks 20th among the NCAA career active leaders.
The Pirates return to C-USA action this Saturday hosting long-time rival Southern Miss at 12 noon (ET). The contest is slated for a national broadcast on Fox Sports Network.