GREENVILLE — Shane Carden is a great quarterback just ask North Carolina and N.C. State. The junior signal caller defeated both teams this season.
But while Carden accounted for 659 total yards and nine touchdowns with his arm and legs, the Houston native has a huge showdown with rival Marshall on Friday night that will decide which team will play on Dec. 7 for the Conference USA Championship.
With a huge showdown looming, Carden has another chance to prove why he is slowly going from a player who was shunned as a starter at the beginning of last season to potentially one of the more memorable quarterbacks in Pirates history.
Second-string to starter
Much like his favorite target on the field Justin Hardy, Cardens career at ECU didnt start as a starter. Hardy, a walk-on during his redshirt freshman season, broke freshman records for both receptions and receiving yards.
As for Carden, he started his tenure as a backup to Rio Johnson and all he did was come in for 11 games and pass for 3,116 passing yards and 23 touchdowns, which rank fourth and fifth all time in a single season at ECU, respectively.
But despite an even better statistical season this year, he is projected to ride the bench yet again in the NFL if he were to get drafted, according to college and pro football analyst Mike Detillier.
The best comparison I can make to Shane is Chase Daniel or Case Keenum, he said. They all kind of look the same with Shane being just a little taller. Hes got great mechanics, stands in the pocket, has poise and he gets it done on the field.
But I do see him as a career backup. Hes a fantastic college player whos putting up outstanding numbers but he wont be a high-round selection.
While Detillier isnt sure whether Carden can make it as a starter in the NFL, he does believe the quarterbacks numbers in college could solidify him as one of the greatest quarterbacks in a Pirates uniform.
Ive never believed that you can judge a college players career by what they do as a professional, Detillier said. If we did that, what would we say about Tim Tebow or Turner Gill? Neither did anything really in the pros, but were two of the greatest quarterbacks at their college. Youve got to judge college quarterbacks by what they do in college.
One of the best at ECU
Much like Carden, David Garrard was tabbed as a backup quarterback coming out of ECU. The former three-year starter for the Pirates went on to start 76 games for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the regular season, won a playoff game in 2007 and made the Pro Bowl in 2009.
What hes done has been unbelievable, Garrard said. Shane has definitely already made his place as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play at ECU. And he still has plenty of time to cement his name ECU fans memories.
As for whether Garrard feels Carden should be considered ECUs best quarterback, he said that will have as much to do with what he does after he leaves the university as what he does during his career.
I think one of the biggest reasons why people remember me might not be because of what I did on the field but rather the way Ive supported the program since I left, Garrard said. If Shane wants to be known as one of the greatest, he doesnt exactly have to play as many seasons as me in the NFL, but he has to remember his roots and who helped him get where he is.
Final C-USA Showdown
Over the years, ECU and Marshall have traded off wins regardless of the record of either team the Thundering Herd won in 2007 despite going 3-9 on the season and last years game took two overtime periods for the Pirates to pull out a 65-59 victory.
But this season, the game means even more. Both teams are 6-1 in the conference and will face off in a winner-take-all showdown for the chance to play in the C-USA Championship.
The top matchup Friday night will be the one between Carden and Marshalls Rakeem Cato. The junior has thrown for over 3,000 yards and has 32 touchdowns along with nearly 250 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Theyre both the generals of their teams, not just their offense, ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said of Carden and Cato. They have great decision-making skills, distribute the ball extremely well, have the ability to extend plays and theyre both two of the top quarterbacks, not just in the conference, but also in the country. They would be good quarterbacks in any league and on any team.
To cement his legacy, Carden may need to knock off Cato and claim the C-USA championship before leading the Pirates into a new era in his final campaign.
Smith: 919-829-4841; Twitter: @RCorySmith