CONWAY — Joe Kaleta’s college football career to this point has been one of change and transition, but the Coastal Carolina football coaches are hoping he can settle in along an offensive line that needs not only depth but another impact regular after losing two starters from last year.
It was announced earlier this week that Kaleta had joined the Chanticleers after securing his release from Washington State, where he started out on the defensive side before moving to right tackle, and now he finds himself in competition for the starting right guard job.
“They told me they need me to come and step in as a fifth guy, and I just got to keep working, keep busting my butt,” he said Thursday evening after Coastal’s first practice of fall camp.
Listed at 6-foot-8 and 315 pounds, the sophomore out of Utica, N.Y., certainly looks the part, but after coming up through high school and prep school as a nose tackle he admitted he’s still adjusting to the offensive side of the ball.
“He’s a guy we think can hopefully help us,” CCU offensive line coach Patrick Covington said. “Pretty sharp guy. Big guy, obviously, but not a big heavy-footed guy or anything like that. We think he can move around pretty good, but we [needed] to fill a spot and get a little depth and we’ll see where it goes. It’s kind of open competition at this point with everybody.”
Kaleta decided to look for a new football home after Washington State changed coaches in the offseason.
“I just wanted to be where I [was] wanted,” he said.
And the Chants can use all the help they can get up front. Head coach Joe Moglia has said multiple times that he’s concerned with the depth along the offensive line. In addition to graduating veterans Bryan Brooks (right tackle) and Tim Franklin (right guard), they are also now without Kaleb Dees. Dees, a junior, started seven games at right guard last season, but he has decided to end his playing career due to undisclosed injuries and will serve as a student assistant this fall.
Meanwhile, junior Jamey Cheatwood and sophomore Chad Hamilton have switched positions with Cheatwood – a preseason all-Big South selection – moving from left tackle to left guard.
“He’s helped us at tackle the last two years, but Jamey’s probably a better fit inside really,” Covington said. “It gives us a chance to put a big-bodied guy, a seasoned vet inside there with our offense where he can kind of make a lot of calls with [senior center Pat Williams]. He’s a big guy to help move the pile a little bit inside there, and Chad’s getting a little bit older, has had a chance to get out there on the edge and is a guy we can rely on.”
Coastal has seven kickers and six punters on its 95-man preseason roster, including a recent addition in junior Stephen Denuel – a transfer from Christopher Newport University who is among several players listed as both.
Moglia promised competition among the specialists, and that’s indeed what the Chants will get.
“I think we’re not going to win without having really consistent, sound specialists that you absolutely know you can count on,” Moglia said.
Junior Grant Clayton was 9-of-16 on field goals and 32-of-34 on extra points last season as the team’s primary place kicker, while sophomore Austin Cain averaged 34.5 yards per punt.
Denuel, the latest addition to the mix, was named first-team All-USA South conference (Division III) last season while setting a school record for points scored in a season by a kicker with 80 while going 16-of-18 on field goals (including 4-of-4 from beyond 40 yards with a long of 46).
Former CCU safety Marcus Lott signed with the New York Jets and will get a look during the team’s training camp, Coastal announced. ... The Chants have switched from Adidas to Nike cleats at the players’ request.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.