By Nathan Summers
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Fourteen top-division college football teams boasted both a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver this season, and East Carolina was one of them.
With such accomplishments come even higher expectations, however, and those expectations are pretty lofty already.
“Our bar is still higher,” ECU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said of his unit, which produced landmark seasons for sophomore receiver Justin Hardy (83 receptions, 1,046 yards, 10 touchdowns) and junior tailback Tay Cooper (191 rushes, 1,030 yards, seven TDs). “Our expectations haven’t been met and we make that clear to these guys every day. We expect better. There are some things we’ve done well, but even going back and looking at a game like Marshall, we can still play so much better and I think the guys can see that when they watch the film.”
Riley said he encourages his players to be motivated by how much better they can be if they correct their mistakes from week to week, and with the Dec. 22 New Orleans Bowl against Louisiana looming, the Pirates (8-4) have a chance to add a significant layer to their success.
That being said, the third-year coordinator knows it’s taken great play and good health to get this far, and he’s quick to point out that the ECU offensive line is responsible for both of the Pirates’ 1,000-yard men.
“Having those guys healthy was a big part of it, and I think just some young or new guys stepping up,” Riley said of ECU’s offensive growth. “We’ve had a lot of contributions from different people. We’ve had different people that have scored three touchdowns in a game, or that have had really good games rushing or receiving. It’s been pretty seamless, but the line has been the key, the health and the depth up front.”
According to Hardy, who will rocket to the top of the Pirates’ all-time receiving lists if his junior and senior seasons match his first two, motivation is not hard to find at the moment.
“Coming into this year, our main focus was to be balanced running and passing, and we look at it like everybody has to do their part to help us out and it worked out this year,” said Hardy, who cashed in a career-best 171 receiving yards in the Pirates’ overtime win against the Thundering Herd in the regular season finale.
Although he’s creating a tougher act to follow with every catch he makes, Hardy expects to produce more each season.
“That should be your main goal, to outdo yourself from the year before,” said the recruiting gem out of West Craven High School. “You grow, you get better, you get stronger, you get faster and it should always be your goal to get better from the previous year.”
The Pirates got back into the groove of a true game week with a lengthy full-pad, full-contact workout on Tuesday night.
Head coach Ruffin McNeill said the team’s focus is now squarely on the Ragin Cajuns, who boast an identical 8-4 record to that of ECU.
“I was really pleased with the way we attacked practice and we approached today on all three sides of the ball,” said McNeill, who noted the Pirates will be back in full gear again for tonight’s session. “Execution was good. It was a good start to the week and we have to make sure we maintain that throughout the week, especially our focus.”
Contact Nathan Summers at email@example.com or 252-329-9595.
via The Daily Reflector.