CONWAY — The plan initially was to redshirt promising freshman defensive end Roderick Holder this season, but the rookie will instead get an extended introduction to college football this weekend as Coastal Carolina travels to face FBS foe Toledo and the Rockets’ proficient offensive attack.
Holder played about 15 snaps or so last week in his season debut after injuries thinned out the Chanticleers’ depth at defensive end, and indications are the 6-foot-3, 225-pound freshman can expect a more substantial role Saturday and in the coming weeks.
“It felt good to get some experience – my first time, get the rust off the shoulders and learn this transition from high school to now playing college,” Holder said. “So now it’s time to put my big-boy pants on and get ready to play.”
Indeed. The Chants lost senior defensive end Chris Thomas – a preseason All-Big South pick – two weekends ago to a torn knee ligament, and they lost senior end Jamel Davis in the second quarter Saturday to a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee.
Thomas and Davis, who is expected to miss three to four weeks, were two of the Chants’ top players at the position. In their stead, sophomore Andrew Allen is expected to draw the start and Holder will get the chance to show his potential a little earlier than expected.
Holder, who was rated the 68th-best prospect in his class in the state of Virginia and a two-star recruit (out of five) by ESPN.com/Scout, said he expects to split snaps with Allen this week. He noted that he hoped to play this year before being informed by the coaches that they planned to redshirt him.
Now he gets his chance, though.
“Rod’s got an incredible first step,” CCU defensive line coach Brandon Noble said. “He gets around the corner really well. He’s still really young. He got away in high school with tremendous athletic ability and burst, so he’s going to have to refine it a little bit now. But he plays really, really hard, he’s got a great motor – all the things you want in a kid that you usually can’t coach. And now I just have to clean all the other stuff up.”
Cain climbing ranks
While the last two games have exposed some concerns on the defensive side for Coastal, the Chants’ special teams unit continues to be significantly improved through the early going.
And it’s not just the kicking game, which has been a strength of the squad with sophomore Alex Catron making six of his first seven field goal attempts.
After averaging 34.5 yards per punt last season, sophomore Austin Cain is averaging 43.1 yards on seven punts through three games.
“Just confidence,” he said. “With the new coaches, we work on it everyday. We work on our drops, we work on special things for punting. So it’s probably just that and experience.”
Cain ranked 97th among FCS punters last season as the Chants’ rookie starter at the position. He doesn’t have enough punts through three games this season to officially qualify among the national leaders, but thanks to his efforts, Coastal is tied for 10th nationally in net punting.
The new coaching staff placed an emphasis on special teams this preseason and brought in a number of challengers for the special teams jobs, and Cain credits that competition with helping his own improvement – at least to this point.
“It feels good, but it’s early in the season,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what happens in the beginning. It matters how you finish.”
Moglia feature set for TV
A feature on Coastal head coach Joe Moglia is scheduled to air on the NBC Sports Network on Thursday night at 7 p.m.
Moglia, who has been the focus of considerable national attention due to his background as the former CEO of present chairman of TD Ameritrade, was followed by a camera crew during the Chants’ game Saturday against Eastern Kentucky.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.