No. 19 Coastal Carolina: Chanticleers won't surprise anyone now, so here's what we know
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Coastal Carolina's spring game was canceled because of inclement weather in February, but here are some things we know about the Chanticleers as they look forward to following up a breakout 2020 season that came within an overtime loss to Liberty in the Cure Bowl of being an undefeated campaign:
The lead actors are back
Most of the players responsible for Coastal's 11-1 record, Sun Belt co-championship and No. 12 position in the final College Football Playoff ranking have returned. Coastal had at least a dozen seniors and graduates take advantage of the NCAA ruling that allows all fall sports athletes to retain a year of eligibility, which has allowed 20 of 22 starters on offense and defense, as well as its primary special teams players.
Among significant contributors in 2020, CCU has lost only defensive end Tarron Jackson, running back C.J. Marable and wide receiver Sam Denmark.
The seniors/grads returning include linebackers Silas Kelly and Teddy Gallagher, lineman C.J. Brewer, defensive end/linebacker Myles Olufemi and safety/linebacker Kendricks Gladney Jr. on defense; linemen Trey Carter, Steven Bedosky and Sam Thompson, and receivers Kameron Brown and Greg Latushko on offense; and special teams players CJ Schrimpf and Charles Ouverson.
"First of all I want to win another championship, that felt pretty cool," said Ouverson, a punter who said he will leave CCU with four degrees, including an MBA. "We're building something really cool here. I love my brothers and my teammates. I've been around them for five years so I have a love for that."
The roster will be limited to 125 players, however.
"When you do have a lot of guys coming back that have played a lot and are going to graduate, that limits the positions for certain people," head coach Jamey Chadwell said. "So some of the younger guys that are coming in trying to earn [playing time], we'll just see what happens.
"We never go in planning on redshirting anybody, because if I tell you, 'Hey you're going to redshirt,' you maybe don't work as hard and then we need you to play because of injuries and stuff."
The team's starting veterans had limited roles in spring practices, as less-experienced players were given the opportunity to learn and show what they could do.
"We're trying to develop some depth at defensive line and offensive line and seeing what our new (running) backs can do, and getting our transfers in and seeing what they can do," Chadwell said.
The Chants added a pair of mid-year transfers on national signing day in North Carolina State offensive lineman Zovon Lindsay of Fayetteville, N.C., and Georgia Tech defensive end Emmanuel Johnson of North Charleston.
The duo joins a signing class that includes 19 student-athletes from seven states: South Carolina (7), Georgia (5), North Carolina (2), Florida (2), Virginia (1), Connecticut (1) and Massachusetts (1).
The 17-player early signing class in December was ranked second in the Sun Belt overall by both 247Sports and Rivals, and included another transfer, defensive back Tre Douglas from Vanderbilt.
Johnson (6-6, 265) is a candidate to be the primary replacement for All-American defensive end Tarron Jackson at a defensive end position. He played sparingly in seven games as a freshman at Georgia Tech last season.
"I think Manny has come in at our defensive end position and done a lot of good things," Chadwell said. "He's still learning from a standpoint of what we're doing but he's been really good. Tre has been getting tons of reps at safety and has made a lot of good plays for us, and I think he's going to be a really good addition. Zovon has done some good things early on, but he's still in a developmental phase from an offensive line standpoint.
" ... All three of those guys have been really good additions for us."
The receiver position should be deep
CCU should be both deeper and possibly more skilled at wide receiver than it was last season.
Carpenter had two receptions in 2020 while filling in at receiver when the Chants were thin at the position due to injuries, but that shouldn't be necessary in 2021.
Rising redshirt sophomore slot receiver Aaron Bedgood (5-8, 170) looked good in the spring after missing the second half of 2019 and all of last season with injuries, and rising redshirt junior Tyler Roberts (6-4, 185), a transfer from N.C. Wesleyan who sat out last season, has also shown promise.
"He's got a lot of ability and could really be a good addition for us if he can be consistent with catching it, but he's somebody who has stepped up a little bit," Chadwell said of Roberts. " ... But just from a consistency standpoint overall can we put them in there and trust them to do what they need to do? We're not quite there yet."
CCU is winning on social media
Coastal has stepped it up with the amount and quality of its social media content, which Chadwell believes is helping the program garner attention both in general and from talented high school football recruits.
"I think our social media aspect has tremendously improved. I think that's probably the biggest improvement we've had in general in our whole program," Chadwell said. "You give credit to our social media people and SID and things we're sending out. I think fans are craving information about what's going on with us, and I think we're putting out some really quality content.
"So that goes hand in hand. If you're not marketing your program, if you're not selling that brand, then you're going to get passed by. ... It's like recruiting, you've got to do stuff like that every day, and I think our people do it as well as anybody."
Our preseason Top 25
For the last 12 years, the American-Statesman's sports staff has spent July breaking down our own preseason Top 25 rankings. Last year's eventual College Football Playoff semifinalists ranked first, second, third and ninth in our 2020 poll.
Our previous Top 25 team stories:
No. 25 Ole Miss: Rebels are hoping, banking on good returns from Lane Kiffin 3.0
No. 24 Washington: Huskies' Morris looks like the quarterback to run with — for now
No. 23 Louisiana: Billy Napier could be college football's next big thing (if he wants it)
No. 22 Penn State: Nittany Lions' safeties honed their craft at Lackawanna
No. 21 Oklahoma State: The next Gundy (Gunnar) begins his Cowboys career