CONWAY — As the season has progressed, the Coastal Carolina football coaches have grown more and more confident in offensive lineman Kevin Hart, feeling that he had earned their trust and a more significant role in the offense.
Which is convenient for the Chanticleers now that they have no choice but to thrust the 6-foot-2, 260-pound sophomore into the starting lineup.
With the news now official that junior left guard Jamey Cheatwood will miss the rest of the season after sustaining a grade-three sprain (translation = tear) to the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, the Chants will give Hart the first chance to replace the three-year starter.
“I feel confident,” Hart said. “We definitely lost a big part of our O-line losing Cheatwood, but I’ve been getting a lot of reps in games and practice so I feel like I can take over so we don’t miss a beat.”
That’s the hope.
Cheatwood, a second-team All-Big South selection each of the last two seasons, injured himself on a seemingly innocent play in the fourth quarter of Coastal’s 34-7 win at VMI on Saturday. After knocking a defender to the ground on a strong block, Cheatwood planted awkwardly on his right leg and crumbled to the turf before eventually being helped off the field.
He had been a key force in the Chants’ improved ground attack as they rumbled for a combined 532 rushing yards over the last two games. Expected to undergo surgery in a few weeks, Cheatwood faces a likely six-month recovery before he can begin working out again.
“He basically pancaked a guy, and all Jamey’s weight, he stepped down on it and it was kind of a freak thing – it popped,” CCU offensive line coach Patrick Covington said. “It’s one of those deals where he doesn’t get rolled up or anything like that. It’s not the typical thing you hear of. ... He’s disappointed because in the time I’ve known Jamey since I’ve been here he’s never missed much playing time. He’s been injured in the spring and had to come back from major surgery and that stuff, but he’s never missed actual playing time.”
Now, Coastal will see if Hart can step right in and keep the offense moving. Hart, who initially joined the program as a center from Hargrave Military Academy, had been rotating in at right guard with sophomore Mo Ashley in recent weeks and although he’s much smaller than the 6-foot-5, 330-pound Cheatwood, Covington is confident he’s ready for the added responsibility.
“For the last three or four games now, he’s played about 40 snaps a game. So he’s played a lot,” Covington said. “... What Kevin does a really good job of is getting to the second level. He’s probably 265 on a good day, but he plays a lot heavier than that. He’s a strong kid. He’s a weight room guy, and he’s busted his butt to gain weight since he’s got here. He’s one of those old-school tough guys that’s going to scrap with you.”
Linebacker Andrae Jacobs’ odyssey of a senior season continues as he’s now getting some work as a pass-rushing defensive end.
Jacobs, the 2010 Big South Defensive Player of the Year who was moved to second-team this season and has seen extensive action on special teams, got an extended opportunity in his latest new role at VMI.
He didn’t officially register a sack, but he did get to the quarterback one time only to be flagged for a personal foul and came close another time.
“He embraced it, and it looked like he did a great job,” CCU defensive coordinator Clayton Carlin said.
One of Carlin’s priorities on defense is to cause havoc for the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage, and the Chants hadn’t done much of that with seven sacks in their first six games. But they notched five Saturday and will see if Jacobs can help the cause going forward.
Liberty announced Tuesday that it has lost three players for the season due to injury.
Senior receiver Ryan Ferguson (knee), who ranks second on the team with 22 catches for 334 yards; sophomore linebacker Bobby Partilla (knee), who had two tackles for loss in a limited defensive role; and little-used senior running back Korrey Davis (hip) were all listed as active for the Flames’ game Saturday against Concord.
Junior Jaquan Glover, who has just three catches for 25 yards, is expected to start in place of Ferguson.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.