Most recently, wide receiver Justin Hardy has been named to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. Since 1994, the Biletnikoff Award has been awarded by the TQC Foundation to the top college wide receiver. He is the first Pirate to be named to the list since Lance Lewis in 2011.
Last season, Hardy stood out on a national level for his role in ECU's powerful passing game. He ranked 21st with 6.77 receptions per game and 23rd in total receiving yards with 1,105. His 85 receiving yards per game was also good enough for 31st in the nation.
Quarterback Shane Carden—one of Hardy's partners in crime—was one of 30 FBS quarterbacks named to the CFPA Offensive Watch List. He finished in the top-35 in the nation in a handful of categories: total passing yards, completions per game (21) and points responsible for (14.3ppg).
Carden is quite the threat in the air, but one thing that makes him shine as an exceptional QB is his ability to run the ball. He ran in eight touchdowns in 2012—including a game-high three rushing touchdowns on four rush attempts in ECU's 65-59 double-overtime win against Marshall in the last game of the regular season.
Of course, offensive studs like Carden and Hardy couldn't shine if it wasn't for exceptional linemen like senior Will Simmons, who was named to the Outland Trophy Watch List, which is awarded by the Football Writers Association of America to the top college interior lineman.
Simmons was a crucial part of the offensive line that allowed the Pirates offense to produce five 100-yard and four 300-yard rushing performances. He also held down the offensive line in three games in which ECU manufactured over 500 yards of total offense—one being the aforementioned double-overtime game against Marshall.
On the defensive side of the ball, senior linebacker Derrell Johnson was one of 51 linebackers named to the Butkus Award Watch List. Started in 1985, this award is given to the top linebackers at the high school, college and professional levels.
In 2012, Johnson led all Pirates in sacks, tackles for lost yardage, fumble recoveries and quarterback pressures. He also finished in top-10 in the conference with 7.0 sacks. He is the only C-USA representative on this watch list.
ECU also has a pair of kickers named to watch lists. Senior Trent Tignor was named to the Ray Guy Award Watch List and junior Warren Harvey was named to the Lou Groza Placekicker Award Watch List.
Awarded by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission, the Lou Groza Award is given to the top college placekicker. Harvey earned his way on the 30-person watch list with an impressive 2012 that included converting all 50 PATs, 15-of-20 field goals and a team-leading 95 points.
The Ray Guy Award is awarded by the Augusta Sports Council to the top punter in college football. On 65 punts this past season, Tignor logged 2,779 yards and nine touchbacks. On top of that, he got 14 puts inside the opponent's 20-yard line and launched a career-high 65-yarder against Navy.
A bit of trivia: new C-USA foe Louisiana Tech's Ray Allen won the award the last two years, making him the only player to ever win it in consecutive years.