Back to the basics for Coastal Carolina defense

ryoung@thesunnews.comOctober 2, 2012 

— As the Coastal Carolina football team left Appalachian State on Saturday night and began the long bus ride back to campus, defensive coordinator Clayton Carlin wasted no time reliving the forgettable experience the Chanticleers had just endured at Kidd Brewer Stadium.

After seeing his unit yield 684 yards of offense to the Mountaineers – well more than Coastal had ever allowed – and watching the team stumble to a humbling 55-14 loss, Carlin used the ride home to rewatch the game and dissect exactly what had happened on the field in Boone, N.C.

“I wanted to see what the heck went so wrong,” he said. “I wanted to see it and find some solutions as soon as possible.”

CCU head coach Joe Moglia has said repeatedly that he had seen definite improvement in the Chants’ defense over the previous few weeks before that setback, but the unit has no doubt had its struggles navigating through a tough stretch of schedule.

In the last three weeks, albeit against two ranked FCS teams and an FBS opponent, Coastal has given up an average of 39 points and 509.3 yards per game. Those numbers are skewed by the woeful outing at Appalachian State, but overall, the Chants (2-3) rank 101st among FCS teams in total defense (454.8 yards per game) and 100th in scoring defense (37.2 points per game).

They’ve showed vulnerability in the secondary, been beaten frequently on the edges and on Saturday, they were gashed all over for 399 rushing yards.

Carlin believes it’s all correctable, though.

“I’ve always felt it’s never as bad as it seems; it’s never as good as it seems,” he said. “You go one day at a time, one practice at a time. We fundamentally weren’t real good, and we missed a bunch of tackles – to a heck of a team, one of the better teams in the country.”

Nonetheless, Moglia acknowledged Tuesday that could precipitate some personnel changes through the depth chart, though neither he nor Carlin singled out any areas of primary concern.

“We’ve got a few days this week in regards to practice where we’re going to kind of take a look at that,” Moglia said. “So we are looking at some personnel changes, but we haven’t finalized those and probably won’t until the end of the week.”

Carlin mentioned junior cornerback LaDarius Hawthorne, sophomore safety Miles Rankin, sophomore cornerback Denzel Rice, freshman safety Richie Sampson and senior defensive end Dominique Whiteside (recently converted back from tight end) as players who have perhaps earned a chance for more playing time, but he reiterated there wasn’t one part of the defense that concerned him most Saturday.

“We spread it around pretty good,” Carlin said. “When it’s that bad from the start, it’s certainly never one position or one guy. It was fairly across the board. We’ve just got to do things better.”

So it’s back to basics during the team’s bye this week, he said. Tackling, communicating on the field, being in the right place, etc.

Five weeks into the season, that’s surely not where the Coastal coaches would like to be spending the majority of their focus and emphasis. But Carlin is practicing patience and a big-picture outlook. He’s been through this before – the growing pains of installing a new system – and he believes in the process.

“Our first year at Bucknell, we went 1-10 and we weren’t very good,” he said of his previous stop. “And year two, we were one of the best defenses in the country. We went from 1-10 to 6-5 to third in the country in rush defense, top-10 or 15 in total defense and scoring defense. So, yeah, I’ve been down this road before. So I’m not panicking.

“I’m sure there’s some [different] outside perception, and I can understand that. But I’ve been down this road before so we’re certainly not panicking in here.”

On the other side

After entering last weekend as one of the most productive players in the FCS, senior quarterback Aramis Hillary had a quiet afternoon at Appalachian State while completing 15-of-30 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns.

And CCU offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude suggested Hillary’s modest performance against the Mountaineers might have had something to do with some self-applied pressure.

Hillary’s older brother CoCo had been a notable player for Appalachian State from 2007-10, and his family was in attendance for the game Saturday.

“He was very hyped up about playing up there. His family has long ties to that program,” Patenaude said. “The week before he had been the player of the week in the Big South, and I think he wanted to show everybody – 30,000 people – hey, I’m not just the younger brother of the guy who was here. I think there was a lot of emotion going on for him, and he never really got his feet under him. He was always kind of looking around, and I don’t think he ever felt comfortable.

“Really, as the offensive coordinator and his quarterback coach, that’s my problem. I’ve got to make sure that he’s never in that situation.”

Even with the down week, Hillary still ranks 17th among FCS players in total offense at 277.6 yards per game.

National rankings

With its convincing win over Coastal, Appalachian State (3-2) moved up two spots to No. 15 in The Sports Network FCS national poll. Stony Brook (4-1), Coastal’s next opponent, moved five spots to No. 13 after knocking off FBS foe Army over the weekend. And Eastern Kentucky (4-1) – which defeated the Chants – checked in at No. 17.

Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.

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