Coastal Carolina is the newest member of the FBS, here’s what to expect in its first season.
It seems as though every year there is at least one new team making the leap from the FCS to the FBS. Some teams have enjoyed immediate success, while others have struggled to find their footing. Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, who both became full-time FBS members in 2014, are two that have seen success since making the jump. The two programs have combined to go 51-24 over the last three seasons, with each having won a Sun Belt title.
This season Coastal Carolina joins the fold as the newest FBS and Sun Belt member, looking to build off the same success as its predecessors. The Chanticleers come into this season having gone 51-15 over the last four seasons, including a 10-2 mark in its final FCS season last year. Coastal Carolina is led by coach Joe Moglia, former CEO of what is now TD Ameritrade, who has brought the team to the FCS playoffs in two of the last four seasons.
And while success has been easy to come by for the program as of late, will it be a smooth transition to the FBS? Here’s a look at what to expect from the Chanticleers in their first season.
Key Returners: RB Osharmar Abercrombie, WR Chris Jones, OG Adam Lawhorn, OT Ethan Howard
Key Losses: RB De’Angelo Henderson, OT Voghens Larrieux, WR Bruce Mapp
Outlook: Coming into this season, Coastal Carolina should be better suited to handle the transition to the FBS level than it would’ve been last season. Saying the Chanticleers had quarterback issues in 2016 would be an understatement. Last season saw the offense start four different quarterbacks, combining to throw for just 1,600 yards. A combination of injury and ineffectiveness forced Moglia to rely more on the ground game, which produced 254.3 yards per game.
However, there’s reason to believe that the offense will be better this season. For one, the Chanticleers will have a quarterback they can rely on, provided he stays healthy. Syracuse graduate transfer Austin Wilson made the move down to Coastal Carolina early this year and made an impact right away in the spring game. Wilson completed 57.6% of his passes for 418 yards and one touchdown during his three seasons for the Orange.
An upgrade in the passing department won’t be enough to completely save the offense. The O-line will need to step up as it has three starters returning from last season, with guard Adam Lawhorn being the only one who started the entire season. Losing its top two rushers might seem troubling, but Coastal Carolina still has a couple of good options in Osharmar Abercrombie (396 yards, 5.4 yards per carry in 2016) and Boston College transfer Marcus Outlow (484 yards, 4.3 yards per carry while at BC).
CCU FOOTBALL (@CoastalFootball) June 27, 2017
Perhaps the best weapon that Wilson will have is receiver Chris Jones. Jones’ production tapered off last season along with the passing game overall, but he still put up strong numbers (22 receptions, 14.7 yards per catch). His performance earned him All-Big South honors for the second straight season. Look for Jones to get plenty of opportunities this season.
Key Returners: LB Shane Johnson, DE Marcus Williamson, CB Anthony Chesley, DE Myles White
Key Losses: LB Alex Scearce, S Richie Sampson, DT Jabarai Bothwell
Outlook: The offense may be struggling to find experience, but that’s something the defense won’t have to worry about. Coastal Carolina will bring back six starters on defense, something that will be important in this transition. And, although the experience will help make this season a little bit easier, the Chanticleers do lose four of their top six tacklers who were a force in the backfield (30 sacks, 73 tackles for loss).
After losing his top two pass rushers in Alex Scearce (eight sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss) and Jabari Bothwell (5.5 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss), Moglia will rely on DE Marcus Williamson and DT Tarrol Stafford. Both Williamson and Stafford should be enough to anchor the defensive front with their ability to get behind the line in a hurry, but the Chanticleers will need a little more help up front in order to get the same type of production they saw last season.
If there’s one thing that the defense wants to carry over from last season, it’s the amount of interceptions it forced. In 2016, this unit managed to pick off 21 passes, and it wasn’t just the secondary that did it — Scearce snagged five from the linebacker spot. With that being said, the Chanticleers are losing 16 of those interceptions and replacing them won’t be easy.
Luckily, CB Anthony Chesley returns (two interceptions, eight pass breakups), immediately becoming one of the best defensive backs in the Sun Belt. In addition, Coastal Carolina’s recruiting class brings in DB’s Cantorian Weems (3-star) and Jave Brown (high 2-star), and both should contribute right away.
Key Games: Sept. 2 vs. UMass, Sept. 30 at ULM, and Oct. 21 at Appalachian State
Projected Record: 5-7
Coastal Carolina is far suited than most FCS programs to transition into the FBS this season. Moglia has a proven track record of turning teams around, and has done a great job with the Chanticleers thus far. With that being said, this squad is still going to go through its share of growing pains during its first season in the Sun Belt. The schedule sets up nicely early on for Moglia’s team, starting the season with UMass, UAB, Western Illinois, and Louisiana-Monroe, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see this team start out 4-0.
However, the road gets a little tougher after that when Sun Belt play kicks into high gear. The Chanticleers will have to go on the road to face both Arkansas State and Appalachian State, but get Troy and Georgia Southern at home. Six wins is not out of the question for this Coastal Carolina squad this season, but with a couple toss up games against Georgia State and Idaho, it won’t be easy to come by.
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