Coastal Carolina shouldn’t be sneaking up on anybody this season.
The No. 22 Chanticleers enter the season with a national ranking for the first time in the program’s Football Bowl Subdivision era and they’re looking to build on the success from a year ago.
Coastal Carolina begins the season with Thursday night’s home game against The Citadel.
“I like our team and the mentality we’ve had so far,” Chanticleers coach Jamey Chadwell said.
Coastal Carolina put together an 11-1 record last year, finishing with a No. 14 national ranking. There are 19 returning starters from that team, including 10 on defense.
“We’re pretty much going to be like last year, but even better,” linebacker Enock Makonzo said. “We try to be more disciplined, be more accountable.”
Chadwell said it will be important to build depth along the defensive front.
The Coastal Carolina offense is stacked with proven playmakers, including quarterback Grayson McCall — the 2020 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. He threw for 26 touchdowns and rushed for seven touchdowns last season, so he’s the league’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
“It’s a new year and you have to continue to execute at a high level,” Chadwell said. “You want to try to put stuff in that can take advantage of the talent that you do have. We’ve worked hard on that to try to put some guys in positions that maybe they’ve not been in before to get them a chance to get the ball out in space and make something happen.”
Among the key players is versatile Jaivon Heiligh, who made 10 touchdown catches last season. He made a school-record 13 receptions in the FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl.
Citadel went 2-10 last season, with four losses in four nonleague outings during the fall semester and then two victories in its final three games across eight Southern Conference games in the spring semester.
“We respect what they do,” Chadwell said. “They’re going to come in here and they could care less whether we’re ranked or not. They’ve beat several Power 5 teams (in their history). They’ve got a great tradition.”
Citadel coach Brent Thompson said the Bulldogs, who are in the Football Championship Subdivision, need to have high expectations.
“Do I think we have the team to do it this year? Absolutely,” he said. “Do I think we have the experience? Absolutely.”
Citadel was picked seventh (coaches) and eighth (media) in preseason Southern Conference polls for the nine-team league.
On offense, Citadel’s lone All-Southern Conference preseason selection is lineman Haden Haas.
However, the Bulldogs have returning starters at all but one position.
“We’ve got a lot of depth returning,” Thompson said. “And it’s very challenging. It’s tough to have that much depth. We’re starting to figure out (what the best lineups will be).”
Citadel linebacker Willie Eubanks III has received preseason All-American recognition on the FCS level. He played eight games during the past season, compiling at least a dozen tackles in three of those outings after racking up 112 tackles during the 2019 season.
Chadwell is in his fifth season overall and the third year as the full-time head coach with the Chanticleers. Before that he spent four seasons at Charleston Southern, which is a neighboring school for The Citadel.
He likes playing an in-state opponent.
“I know they hate me,” Chadwell said. “But more so for us, it’s an opportunity to get our team to play.”
–Field Level Media