In Coastal Carolina’s first season in the Sun Belt Conference, its football opponents aren’t expecting much from the Chanticleers.
Coastal, which is moving up this year to the Football Bowl Subdivision level from the Football Championship Subdivision, has been predictably picked to finish last in the conference in a poll of the Sun Belt’s 12 head football coaches.
“We knew, obviously being a new member and not a lot of people knowing about us and going off our FCS record, that we were going to be picked there,” said CCU offensive coordinator and associate head coach Jamey Chadwell on Monday during the Sun Belt Conference Football Media Days at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
“I’m sure we will use it in some ways that, ‘Hey, these people are doubting you,’ ” Chadwell continued. “Any time you can play with a chip on your shoulder it helps you.” While acknowledging that being picked last in the conference was expected, Chadwell couldn’t resist making a guarantee.
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“We won’t finish 12th, I promise,” Chadwell said as his unsolicited closing statement in his press conference. Chadwell, who was hired from Charleston Southern in January, was standing in for sixth-year head coach Joe Moglia, who recently had a medical procedure but is expected to be present at the team’s first practice Saturday.
The Chants are eligible to win a conference championship but aren’t eligible for a bowl game until 2018 as a condition of their move up to FBS, and won’t have as many scholarship players as their FBS opponents in 2017 because they haven’t fully completed their transition.
“It’s pretty tough for some guys because everybody wants to compete for a bowl game, but for us, right now we’re just focused on making Coastal Carolina proud,” senior running back Osharmar Abercrombie said.
The Chanticleers are coming off a 10-2 season with a full FCS schedule, and return fewer than half of their returning starters on both offense and defense.
“Our head coach is 51-15 in five years, so our expectations are to win,” Chadwell said. “That’s what we expect to do, so no matter if we’re making this jump or not you’ll see a team play that way.”
The Chants are entering a football conference that sent six teams to bowl games last season and went 4-2 in those games. Appalachian State and Troy were among the bowl game victors, and are picked to finish first and second in the conference, respectively.
Appalachian State received seven of 12 first-place votes and tallied 136 points. It claimed a share of the league title last season with a 7-1 record in conference play and a 10-3 overall record. Troy received two first-place votes while tallying 127 points.
The Mountaineers will return 47 lettermen, which includes 13 of 22 starters on offense and defense. Troy was 10-3 overall and 6-2 in the conference last year, and returns 54 lettermen and 17 starters, including 10 on offense.
The Chants travel to Appalachian State and host Troy this upcoming season.
Appalachian State senior quarterback Tayler Lamb said the Mountaineers believe they can run the table this year. They open with Georgia but don’t have to face the three teams ranked immediately below them in the conference standings.
“It’s talked about. We have a great schedule this year. It sets up nicely for us to win every game, that’s what we want to do,” Lamb said. “For a New Year’s six bowl you obviously have to win every game. We had an 11-win season, a bowl win, 10-win season, Sun Belt Championship – this team wants to go to the next step, that’s winning the Sun Belt and going to a bigger bowl. … That’s definitely on the table, I think, for us this year.”
Coastal had just one player named to the Preseason All-Conference first or second team, as junior punter Evan Rabon was named to the second team.
Appalachian State junior running back Jalin Moore is the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, and Arkansas State defensive lineman Ja’Von Rolland-Jones is the projected Defensive Player of the Year.
Coastal’s first Sun Belt game will be its fourth of the season, at Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 30. “There will be a great excitement about playing in the Sun Belt,” Chadwell said. “We’ve had a lot of success, but we don’t know if what we have currently is good enough versus FBS programs because we have not played one in a long time. So for us getting to that first game and seeing do we have the talent and resiliency to match up with FBS opponents who have been playing FBS for awhile. I think that will be our barometer.”
The Chants begin practices for the 2017 season Saturday morning.
“We feel we’re going to be a great addition ultimately to this conference where we feel we’ll be the ones picked No. 1 and we’ll be the ones talked about for a New Year’s Eve bowl,” Chadwell said. “That’s the goal and that’s the expectation.”
Sun Belt Football Coaches Poll (first place votes)
1. Appalachian St. (7) - 136 pts
2. Troy (2) - 127 pts
3. Arkansas State (1) - 122 pts
4. South Alabama - 98 pts
5. Louisiana (1) - 95 pts
6. Idaho - 84 pts
7. Georgia Southern - 82 pts
8. Georgia State - 48 pts
9. Louisiana-Monroe - 46 pts
10. New Mexico St. (1) - 41 pts
11. Texas State - 31 pts
12. Coastal Carolina - 26 pts