With the 2013 Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl set to kick off Monday afternoon, we figured we'd take some time to introduce you to a handful of players from each team that you should know. Let's start with the enemy.
Shane Carden: The ECU Pirates' offense starts and ends with this junior quarterback. In two seasons at the helm of ECU's reins Carden has tossed for 6,982 yards, 55 touchdowns while completing 69 percent of his passes along the way. His 71 percent completion percentage this season is tops in the nation amongst quarterbacks with at least 300 attempts. He's a smart quarterback, with a zippy arm, who rarely has trouble putting up numbers. With him under center the Pirates have averaged 40.4 points-per-game (11th best in the country).
Justin Hardy: Hardy is the other half of the Carden offense. His favorite target, by far, Hardy has accounted for 105 receptions, 1,218 yards and eight touchdowns this season. That's following his 88 catch, 1,110 yards, 11 touchdown season in his first year with Carden. The chemistry these two have is impressive. They both know where the other will be at any given moment and complement each other's style of play. If you can stop one of these two, you've shut down ECU's offense. The problem is shutting one of them down has been near impossible this season.
Vintavious Cooper: In a pass heavy offense its easy to lose site of the running back. Cooper has just 995 yards on the season, for a 4.9 yards-per-carry average, but he has 11 touchdowns and adds another dimension to his game: he can catch. In fact, he's the team's third leading receiver with 41 catches, for 390 yards. At 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds he's slightly undersized, but his speed, elusiveness and ability to contribute in the air as well make him a sneaky threat.
Derrell Johnson: Offense is king. It's hard to deny it. And if ever there were an offensively biased football fan, it would be I. But I have to give credit where credit is due. For all the fanfare the Pirates' offense gets, ECU also has a top-30 defense. The Pirates give up a slightly high 25.2 points-per-game (and average 15 more than that), but that number is skewed slightly from a 59-28 road loss to Marshall at the end of the regular season. Johnson is a key part of ECU's defense. A true specimen, he stands at 6-foot-2, 264 pounds and he can get up and go. He leads the team in several defensive categories, including total tackles (77), tackles for loss (13.5) and sacks (7.5). He's all over the field on any given gameday making his presence felt. Monday shouldn't be any different.
Damon Magazu: If ever there were a quarterback of the defense it would be this 5-foot-9 safety. He's second on the team in total tackles and has been back there hawking his way around offenses for the past three seasons. For 42-straight games he's notched at least one tackle, and has a knack for coming up with big interceptions. He's not the most intimidating safety, physically, but he's smart, wily and knows how to read offenses.
The Ohio Bobcats:
Tyler Tettleton: We all know this guy's story already. The son of former MLBer Mickey Tettleton, statistically the greatest quarterback in Ohio history, etc., etc., etc.. But unfortunately for the younger Tettleton his legacy at Ohio has taken a recent hit due to back-to-back late season slides in performance and some cringe-inducing quotes there down the stretch this season. What's interesting about Tettleton is since bursting on the scene in 2011, his numbers have gotten worse, much worse. He's almost 700 yards shy of his 2010 passing total, barely runs any more and has struggled in big games. But that doesn't make him any less dangerous. Last season, after a similar slide he lit up Louisiana-Monroe for the best game of his season. If he wants to restore some faith and not go out with an army of disappointed and angry fans on his case, he could do the same Monday.
Travis Carrie: Carrie had aspirations of being an NFL-safety before suffering a season-ending shoulder surgery in 2012. He bounced back this season, and has been huge at times, but his shoulder isn't 100 percent, and that's been clear at times. Still, even with battling through pain he's shown why he's considered the leader of the 'Cats, coming up with a pair of pick-6's against UMass in the regular season finale. He's strong, and insanely smart, and can lock down a receiver when on. Expect to see him on Hardy a lot come Monday.
Tarell Basham: Who is Basham you ask? Only arguably the best player on the Bobcats' roster this season. The freshman, by way of the Hargrave Military Academy, has been an absolute stud on Ohio's defensive line this season. His 6.5 sacks this season have him just three away from Ohio's single season record. His 8.5 tackles for loss are also tops on the team, oh and he's forced a pair of fumbles. He's a high-motor, quick defensive end that gets after quarterbacks. A true pass rushing specialist, he'll be called on a lot in order to slow Carden.
Chase Cochran: Sure Donte Foster is Tettleton's favorite target, but Cochran is the most dangerous. A deep-ball specialist, he's averaging 20.5 yards-per-catch this season. In fact, before Ohio's late-season folly's he and Tettleton had built up quite a bit of chemistry. In a two-week span midway through the season he tallied 250 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns on six receptions. If he can get separation, and Tettleton can hit him, he's got the ability to break a game wide open.
Josiah Yazdani: A KICKER? Yes, Ohio's kicker is the fifth name to know. Sure Beau Blankenship is a player with a big reputation, but he really hasn't had a huge impact this season. Yazdani has. The 'Cats were looking for a replacement for Matt Weller to start the season, and it went awful. Matt Green, an Oklahoma State transfer, was far from consistent, missing five field goals in the first three games. Then Solich put the local kicker in, and he's been absolutely perfect since. That's not an exaggeration. He has yet to miss an extra point or field goal. What was a weakness for Ohio at the beginning of the season has turned into a sure-fire strength. If it's up to Yazdani at the end of a game, he's going to knock it through.