By Jeff Risdon, @JeffRisdon
East Carolina has one quarterback already in the league, as Falcons backup Dominique Davis is a former Pirate. His successor in Goldsboro, Shane Carden, figures to join him in 2015.
Carden is a Houston native who honed his craft under the tutelage of former Texas Tech QB B.J. Symons. For those familiar with the Red Raiders offense, his influence is readily evident. Carden would fit right in the line with Symons, Taylor Potts or Graham Harrell.
The Pirates run the similar quick-hit spread offense, and it makes a complete evaluation of Carden as a passer quite difficult. The emphasis is on getting the ball out quickly, often in under two seconds from when he receives the snap in the shotgun. Carden is never under center, varying from a pistol distance to a full shotgun.
Carden does this quick offense very effectively. He’s got a quick release and fairly compact delivery; the ball comes out quickly and with some zip off his hand. Accuracy is his primary calling card, and he does that extremely well. Carden led the nation in completion percentage with 71% in 2013. Here’s a fairly typical play from the Pirates offense, taken from Draft Breakdown’s cut against North Carolina State:
One of the negative consequences of running that sort of quick-hit offense is that the defense can, and will, jump routes and make plays on the ball if the QB isn’t careful. Carden shows some vulnerability here, because he will stare down his target even in the quick pacing.
He’s not asked to challenge down the field very often…and it shows. On this play from the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl against Ohio, he bears a strong resemblance to Oakland Raiders draft pick Derek Carr. That is not a compliment, because he’s emulating Carr’s worst attribute.
Carden rears back and releases the ball with all of his weight on his back foot. His hips do not square to his target, and the ball hangs up as a result. It’s a testament to his arm strength that the ball gets there at all. I saw a lot of this from Carr in Fresno State’s similar offense, and it’s a legit knock that kept him out of the first round.
The arm strength is what gives me greater hope with Carden than the soft-tossing Red Raiders. His ability to throw strikes on the run is impressive, something that Harrell and Potts could not do. Once again, he’s reminiscent of Carr in that regard.
There were several instances where he ripped a ball into a tight window, almost daring the defense to try and pick it. While his zip isn’t elite, his throws don’t tend to lose velocity as they travel down the field. Still, it seems like he got away with a lot of questionable decisions in tight coverage, plays that will not work at the next level.
He’s not that big, listed at 6’2” and 218 pounds. Without seeing any listing for his hand size, my view from afar is that he might be on the small side there.
Two other quick things I like about Carden: his play fakes and his opportunism as a runner. He’s very good at selling the run fake and conceals the ball from the defense nicely. He also tends to produce successful results when he calls his own number, scoring 10 touchdowns as a runner.
It would be nice to see more designed deeper throws in 2014, but that’s unlikely to happen in the confines of the Pirates offense. Carden does have a pair of talented wideouts in senior Justin Hardy (a likely top 100 prospect) and sophomore Isaiah Jones who can both get vertical.
I also want to see better feel of the backside rush, which is something he can work on in his senior season. It’s far too early to project a potential draft spot, but a strong 2014 should land him in the Shrine Game or perhaps even the Senior Bowl. Getting into one of those important exhibitions would allow him to show more of what he can do with his arm against more upper-echelon competition.