Coastal Carolina was one of college football’s breakout teams in 2020, and with 19 returning starters, coach Jamey Chadwell’s team is expected to contend for the New Year’s Six bowl spot for Group of 5 programs. Quarterback Grayson McCall is back after a dynamic freshman season, and he’s supported by one of the Sun Belt’s top offensive lines and receiving corps. The Chanticleers will miss end Tarron Jackson, but the rest of the unit returns intact and should be near the top of the conference once again. With a manageable schedule on tap, it’s possible Coastal Carolina could be favored in all 12 of its regular season games.
Previewing Coastal Carolina’s Offense
Quarterback Grayson McCall returns to run CCU’s triple-option spread offense after a stellar 2020 as a redshirt freshman. The 2020 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year completed 172-of-250 passes (68.8 percent) for 2,488 yards with 26 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He also rushed for 569 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns. McCall returns nearly all of his weapons and protection, as nine of 11 offensive starters return, many taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility. Wide receiver Jaivon Heiligh caught 65 passes for 998 yards and 10 TDs. Tight end Isaiah Likely was considered a 2021 NFL Draft candidate but has returned after catching 30 passes.
The offense loses running back CJ Marable, who amassed 1,227 all-purpose yards and declared for the draft. Running backs Reese White and Shermari Jones accounted for nearly 900 rushing yards and nine TDs between them and provide a mix of speed and power. The offensive line returns intact and includes guard Trey Carter, a first-team All-Sun Belt selection who has started 48 consecutive games, and guard Willie Lampkin, who earned some Freshman All-America notice. McCall, Carter, Likely and Heiligh were first-team All-Sun Belt picks last season.
Previewing Coastal Carolina’s Defense
Coastal returns 10 of 11 starters on defense, losing only defensive end Tarron Jackson, the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year who declared for the draft. Several playmakers return, with defensive lineman C.J. Brewer, outside linebacker Jeffrey Gunter and cornerback D’Jordan Strong all having earned first-team All-Sun Belt honors. Gunter was second on the team to Jackson with 12.5 tackles for a loss and 12 QB hurries. Strong was the Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year as a juco transfer after tying for third in the nation with five interceptions. In 2020, the Chants defense recorded 77 tackles for a loss, 34 sacks, 46 hurries and 16 interceptions.
CCU is solid in the middle with nose tackle Jerrod Clark and linebackers Teddy Gallagher and Silas Kelly returning. Speedy linebacker Enock Makonzo is an outside force along with Gunter.
CCU is expected to add a couple of potential impact transfers in freshman defensive end Emmanuel Johnson (Georgia Tech) and defensive back Tré Douglas III (Vanderbilt).
Previewing Coastal Carolina’s Specialists
Kicker Massimo Biscardi was named second-team all-conference after making 11-of-13 field goals with a long of 51 yards. Heiligh was the leading punt returner and Jones the leading kickoff returner. Punter Charles Ouverson averaged 40.3 yards per punt, with 18 of his 35 punts downed inside the 20 and just two touchbacks, and he was Biscardi’s holder.
Coastal was the darling of college football in 2020, going 11–1 with an overtime loss to Liberty in the Cure Bowl after not having recorded a winning season at the FBS level. CCU cracked the top 10 of the AP Poll and finished the season 12th in the final College Football Playoff rankings. Coastal returns 19 of 22 starters, had double-digit seniors and graduates return for their extra year of eligibility and gave head coach Jamey Chadwell a raise and contract extension to keep him. Clearly, expectations are high in Conway.
National Ranking: 24
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(Grayson McCall photo by CCU Photography, courtesy of goccusports.com)