Coastal Carolina is making the jump from FCS to FBS as the 12th member of the Sun Belt Conference. The Chanticleers are eligible for the conference crown, but can’t go to a bowl game in their transitional season. Even though Coastal Carolina went 10-2 last season, six wins against better competition was probably too lofty a goal in the first place. Head coach Joe Moglia only has eight total starters returning as his best players on both sides of the ball and a good chunk of his offensive line have all departed. There are some intriguing names to keep an eye on, but the Chanticleers’ honeymoon season in the FBS isn’t likely to feature many wins.
Previewing Coastal Carolina Football’s Offense for 2017
As Coastal Carolina moves up to the FBS level after 14 seasons as an FCS member, the team is searching for stability at quarterback. Despite going 10–2 playing a full FCS schedule in 2016, the Chanticleers used six quarterbacks (seven if you count one who went down before the season) due to injury. Graduate transfer Austin Wilson may be the one-season answer. He had limited action in nine games with Syracuse from 2014-16, completing 49-of-85 passes for 418 yards with one touchdown and seven interceptions. Josh Stilley, who won the starting job as a sophomore in 2016 but was lost for the season with a knee injury in the third game, is another option.
The Chanticleers must replace the school’s all-time leading rusher, De’Angelo Henderson, and four productive members of the offensive line. Senior Osharmar Abercrombie, with 1,198 career yards, is next in line to be the featured back. CCU has some talented receivers, but they are untested because the team threw little in 2016 due to the quarterback injuries. The top returner is senior Chris Jones (22 receptions for 323 yards).
Jamey Chadwell, previously the head coach at Charleston Southern, replaces Dave Patenaude as the offensive coordinator. He’s expected to run a spread option attack.
Previewing Coastal Carolina Football’s Defense for 2017
Coastal has more stability on defense, although it must replace most of its defensive backfield and All-America linebacker Alex Scearce, who finished sixth in the voting for the Buck Buchanan FCS Defensive Player of the Year Award. The leader of the defense will be linebacker Shane Johnson, who was second on the team with 66 total tackles last season despite missing two games to injury. A lot will be expected from sophomore linebacker Laqavious Paul, who impressed in limited action as a freshman.
Pass-rushing defensive ends Myles White and Marcus Williamson return after combining for 15.5 tackles for a loss last season. The middle of the 4-3 front will be manned by tackles Ja’ree Tolbert and Dwayne Price, who combined for 47 tackles in 2016. While CCU’s offensive line has the size to compete at the FBS level, the defense will be undersized with a projected starting front four that averages just over 250 pounds. This group will have to rely on quickness.
Coastal Carolina intercepted 21 passes in 2016 with a more aggressive defensive philosophy under first-year coordinator Mickey Matthews, the former head coach at James Madison. But those interceptions came with a very experienced secondary. Junior cornerback Anthony Chesley is the only returning player who had more than one of the picks.
Previewing Coastal Carolina Football’s Specialists for 2017
The Chants must replace reliable placekicker Ryan Granger, who made 17-of-21 last season. Junior Masamitsu Ishibashi, who has been a kickoff specialist, is the likely replacement. Chris Jones and Ky’Jon Tyler are both dangerous in the return game.
Coastal Carolina can compete for a Sun Belt Conference championship this season but won’t be eligible for a bowl game until 2018, per NCAA transition rules. It would be unrealistic to expect the Chants to contend for a league title in their first FBS season, particularly with an undersized defense, but they have the coaching staff to succeed in the Sun Belt.
Head coach Joe Moglia, who returned to sidelines after more than two decades in the corporate world, has compiled a 51–15 record at CCU and won the 2015 Eddie Robinson FCS National Coach of the Year Award. In addition, Matthews is three-time National Coach of the Year, and Chadwell was being considered for other FBS jobs before being hired by CCU in January. This program is clearly under outstanding leadership.
National Ranking: 124
Sun Belt Prediction: 10
(Osharmar Abercrombie photo courtesy of Coastal Carolina University Athletics)