East Carolina Football

ECU Pirates picked to win C-USA East

(Greenville) Daily ReflectorJuly 18, 2013 

— Conference USA’s football coaches picked East Carolina to win the C-USA East Division.

C-USA announced Wednesday that the Pirates, whose season opener is Aug. 31 against Old Dominion, picked up 11 of 14 first-place votes for a total of 95 points to finish ahead of Marshall (82) and Middle Tennessee (70) in the league’s annual preseason poll. Marshall received two first-place votes, and Middle Tennessee garnered one.

UAB was picked fourth, Southern Miss fifth, Florida Atlantic sixth and Florida International seventh.

Defending C-USA champion Tulsa was chosen unanimously as the preseason favorite to win the West Division, accumulating 98 total points. Rice (76) and new conference member Louisiana Tech (72) came in second and third, respectively. They were followed by UTEP, North Texas, Tulane and Texas-San Antonio.

The league also released preseason individual honors.

ECU’s first-team players were senior running back Vintavious Cooper, junior receiver Justin Hardy, senior offensive lineman Will Simmons and senior linebacker Derrell Johnson.

Cooper, last year’s C-USA Newcomer of the Year, started eight games in 2012 and had four 100-yard rushing games, including 172 against UAB and 151 against UTEP.

Hardy was a first-team all-conference selection last season after finishing 21st in the nation in receptions per game and 23rd in receiving yards. His 1,105 receiving yards rank third all-time at ECU for a single season.

Simmons, a key member of the offensive line at right guard, started all 13 of the Pirates’ game last year.

Johnson led all ECU defenders in sacks, tackles for lost yardage, fumble recoveries and quarterback pressures. He finished with 62 total tackles, including 27 solo stops.

Conference USA named Marshall junior quarterback Rakeem Cato as preseason Offensive Player of the Year, Rice senior defensive back Phillip Gaines as Defensive Player of the Year and Tulane senior kicker Cairo Santos as Special Teams Player of the Year.

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