CONWAY — Down three starting offensive linemen by the end of its NCAA FCS playoff opener last Saturday, the Coastal Carolina football team has had to go to the depths of one of its thinnest position groups at the most critical point of the season. But there is at least some optimism the unit will have more of a familiar look when the Chanticleers visit Old Dominion this weekend.
That is still to be determined, though.
Sophomore left tackle Chad Hamilton (knee) and junior right tackle Drew Herring (ankle) were in red non-contact jerseys Tuesday evening as the Chants returned to practice, and neither was active as the first-team offense took the field at the start of team drills.
“I’d hope so, but we’ll know better later on in the week,” CCU coach Joe Moglia said of the players’ chances of playing Saturday. “I’d say 50-50. We’ll have a good idea by Wednesday after practice.”
Hamilton, a second-team All-Big South selection, did not play in the Chants’ playoff-opening 24-14 win at Bethune-Cookman after hurting himself the previous game, and Herring was injured in the third quarter. The Chants previously lost junior left guard Jamey Cheatwood for the season after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee last month. He won’t be able to help Coastal (8-4) as it ventures into the second round of the playoffs for the first time in program history while visiting Old Dominion (10-1), but CCU offensive line coach Patrick Covington echoed Moglia’s hope that the other two might.
“I think we’ll know a little bit more in the next couple of days. It’s that time of the year everybody’s a little banged up, but I think those guys will probably be ready to go so we should be fine,” Covington said.
Sophomore Kevin Hart replaced Cheatwood in the lineup last month, and junior Will Middleton and sophomore Kenny Fitzgerald filled the gaps on Saturday as the Chants managed to rush for 202 yards – their seventh straight game with more than 200 yards on the ground.
Neither Middleton nor Fitzgerald had seen much significant game action this season, but Covington was pleased with how the two responded in the win Saturday.
“The way we practice, those guys get so many reps in our offense anyway it’s new in the game form against a different opponent, but the way we practice they usually have run that play plenty of times,” Covington said.
Tight end turnover
Then there’s the Chants’ tight end situation.
Senior starter David Duran did not play last weekend due to a shoulder injury and is now expected to miss the rest of the season, while promising redshirt-freshman fill-in Thomas Pauciello injured his ankle in the first half and also is expected to be out this week.
“We’re going to make a final decision Wednesday as to whether he may or may not need surgery,” Moglia said.
That leaves redshirt-freshman Craig Weick as the next man up at the position .Weick, a 6-foot-5 second-year player out of state power Byrnes High School, has not caught a pass yet in his collegiate career, and he’ll mostly be used for blocking purposes Saturday.
“That’s part of what we’re looking at in the last 24 hours as far as our adaption to our personnel goes,” Moglia said. “… We could certainly go with Craig in there as one of the tight end spots. We could also go with other combinations where we’d have one or two backs and more wide receivers. There’s nothing wrong with any of that for us.”
Weick got off to an inauspicious start in relief of Pauciello last week while allowing a pass rusher to get past him on his first play and blindside senior quarterback Aramis Hillary for a sack. But he felt he settled in as the game progressed.
“I wouldn’t say overwhelmed, but it was definitely eye-opening,” Weick said. “The first play I kind of messed up, but [offensive coordinator Dave] Patenaude didn’t give up on me. He let me work through the game and kind of get a feel for it and come back strong.”
The tight end position has not been a focal point of the passing game this season, so the Chants should be able to adjust accordingly without changing too much offensively.
As for Duran, though, it’s an unfortunate situation for the sixth-year senior after he rehabbed to return from a torn rotator cuff that cost him most of last season.
“I have no question that it hurts him not to be out there,” Moglia said. “He’s been out there every day, and it’s got to be incredibly disappointing for him to come back, starting to really come back to his former form and then getting injured again. That’s got to be very disappointing for him and it’s disappointing for us. Having said that, Dave is really a man of incredible faith and I think he understands this happened, I’ve got to be able to handle it, I’ve got to be able to live with it, I still have a role on this team as a leader and somebody with experience.”
The steady stream of national media attention for Moglia has continued this week as the Wall Street Journal interviewed him on Tuesday and he’s set to do an interview with CNN on Wednesday, though it’s unclear when that feature will air. Also, there are indications that the video piece shot over four days in September by a camera crew working for ESPN will be shown Saturday on the part of College GameDay that airs from 9-10 a.m. on ESPNU.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.