Austin Wilson is trying to use Coastal Carolina’s spring practices to take hold of the team’s starting quarterback position for its inaugural season in the Football Bowl Subdivision and Sun Belt Conference this fall.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound graduate transfer from Syracuse is listed as the top quarterback on the spring depth chart.
Wilson, of Camp Hill, Pa., had limited action in nine games with the Orange from 2014-16, completing 49 of 85 passes for 418 yards with seven interceptions and one touchdown.
“He’s a good athlete. He’s a good football player. He throws the ball well,” CCU head coach Joe Moglia said Wednesday. “I like his leadership. I like his maturity. I like the way he handles himself. I like the way he embraces BAM [Be a Man principles]. I think the guys respect him. He has fit in well. He’s showing maturity that frankly you would expect from a fifth-year transfer. I feel good about him.”
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The Chants are three days into 15 days of spring practices. They began last week, are off this week for spring break and have four more weeks featuring three practices each, culminating with the spring scrimmage on April 8.
The Chants consider a productive spring essential considering they are moving up from the Football Championship Subdivision and are trying to replace place kicker Ryan Granger, eight starters on offense and five on defense.
Though none of the lost starters played quarterback.
Wilson is listed ahead of rising senior Tyler Keane of Myrtle Beach, who started seven games in 2016 after multiple quarterbacks were injured, and rising junior Josh Stilley of Cornelius, N.C., who earned the starting job to start 2016 but continues to recover from knee surgery.
“We don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like. We’ll have a better feeling coming out of spring ball,” Moglia said of the QB depth chart.
Stilley, who was lost for the season to a knee injury in the third game of the season, is throwing and taking part in some aspects of practice but isn’t taking snaps from center. “We’re pleased with his recovery,” Moglia said. “He still needs experience and he needs to 100 percent recover.”
One player from the Grand Strand is changing positions while another has been dismissed from the team for not living up to the program’s BAM standards.
Rising junior Michael Billings of Georgetown (5-10, 200 pounds), who has played in 22 games in his first two years and has started four games at safety as a replacement due to injury, is being moved from safety to outside linebacker.
“You evaluate film and look at what the guy does well and look at what the guy hasn’t done well, and what he did well is more of a fit for linebacker and what he hasn’t done isn’t quite as necessary at linebacker,” Moglia said. “Hopefully he’s going to turn out to be a really solid linebacker.”
You evaluate film and look at what the guy does well and look at what the guy hasn’t done well, and what he did well is more of a fit for linebacker and what he hasn’t done isn’t quite as necessary at linebacker. Hopefully he’s going to turn out to be a really solid linebacker.
CCU coach Joe Moglia on Michael Billings of Georgetown
Delano Walters, a 2014 Socastee High graduate who joined the team as a preferred walk-on out of high school and continued to be a non-scholarship member, is no longer part of the football program, Moglia confirmed. Walters played special teams in all 12 games this past season and has participated in 22 games in his career.
“I think he could be a good wide receiver,” said Moglia, who doesn’t believe Walters will rejoin the team. “He’s slight but he’s fast and he’s got pretty good hands.”
The principles of BAM are “standing on your own two feet, taking responsibility for yourself, treating others with dignity and respect, and living with the consequences of your actions,” Moglia said.
Freshman/rising sophomore Avery McCall remains enrolled at CCU despite being dismissed from the team for not living up to BAM principles, and Moglia said the four-time state champion quarterback at Dillon could rejoin the team this summer.
“If he does everything he needs to do, takes care of business, lives up to BAM, pays for his education himself, does all those things and proves that by his actions, I’d be very, very open to give him another chance in July,” Moglia said. “He has not lived up to BAM, and that’s an issue. … He certainly wants to come back and play football.”
If he does everything he needs to do, takes care of business, lives up to BAM, pays for his education himself, does all those things and proves that by his actions, I’d be very, very open to give him another chance in July. He has not lived up to BAM, and that’s an issue. … He certainly wants to come back and play football.
Moglia on Avery McCall of Dillon
Though the Chants are admittedly light at quarterback, redshirt sophomore Chance Thrasher (6-2, 205) of Suwanee, Ga., is being moved from quarterback to safety. Thrasher has missed his two seasons at CCU with injuries to his throwing shoulder and was competing with Stilley for the 2016 starting job before dropping out of the competition because of the injury.
He continues to throw on his own while learning his new position, Moglia said. “In effect, because of his shoulder problems, he has missed a solid two years. He’s done nothing. The doctors have said to us his throwing motion is going to take a little while to come along and we shouldn’t rush that,” Moglia said. “Well, the kid’s a good athlete and he wants to play. He wants to get on the field and volunteered to go over to the defense. ”
Ryan Lee will remain a quarterback. The Chants were trying to convert the high school quarterback at Spring Valley in Columbia to wide receiver as a freshman last season, but he was pressed into duty at quarterback because of injuries – predominantly as a runner – and is being worked at QB this spring.
The spring season is valuable to new offensive coordinator and former Charleston Southern head coach Jamey Chadwell, who is implementing a new offense. The Chants have largely run a spread offense that will be converted to a spread option offense, as Chadwell featured the option with the Buccaneers.
“We had option attacks within our running game last year, and we’ll have more of an option attack within our running game this year,” Moglia said. “We’re still going to throw the ball. We’re changing some aspects of our passing game. We’re going to have more play-action, probably.”
The Chants are replacing most of the starting offensive line and All-America running back De’Angelo Henderson, as well as most of the secondary.
In the backfield, the Chants return rising senior Osharmar Abercrombie and sophomore Jah-Maine Martin of Conway, and add the services of redshirt freshman Alex James of Florence Christian and junior Marcus Outlow, a transfer from Boston College. “We feel pretty good about those guys,” Moglia said.
In order to work around player class schedules, the two-hour spring practice sessions are generally early in the mornings or late in the afternoons, with a few midday practices as well.