It didn’t take the Coastal Carolina football team long to make head coach Joe Moglia a large part of its 2017 season.
The Chanticleers took the field for their first practice of the season Saturday morning less than 17 hours after being informed by Moglia that he was going to miss the season due to a medical sabbatical to address lung inflammation.
A couple of Chants declared after the practice that the team is dedicating the season – the school’s first in the Football Bowl Subdivision – to their sixth-year head coach.
“We’re going to dedicate the season to coach Moglia,” senior running back Osharmar Abercrombie said. “I know he wants us to give everything we’ve got. I know every year I’ve been here he’s been giving us everything, making all kinds of sacrifices for us. So we want to make sure we give everything back to him.”
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The medical sabbatical is for five months and Moglia is expected to return to run the program thereafter.
“It was heartbreaking. It was very heartbreaking,” senior linebacker Shane Johnson said of the team learning of Moglia’s leave. “We all were recruited under coach Moglia and it’s sad to see him leave us, but it’s better for him and the team will keep on going. We know he’s going to be around and we have to keep fighting.”
We miss coach Joe. You can’t replace coach Joe. The team was kind of upset because he’s been there and made all kinds of sacrifices for us, but we kind of understood why he had to make this decision to step down.
CCU senior RB Osharmar Abercrombie
Jamey Chadwell, who was hired as CCU’s associate head coach and offensive coordinator in January following four years as the head coach at Charleston Southern, is the interim head coach for the season and led the team in Saturday’s practice.
“I thought the attitude was really good. They were excited to be out here,” said Chadwell, who is retaining his offensive coordinator duties as interim head coach. “I think there is still a little bit of a shock and surprise from what happened [Friday] night, which was to be expected, but the kids are pretty resilient.
“The thing we were worried about as a staff was what their attitude would be, and it looks like business as usual and that’s what coach Moglia told them he wanted it to be.”
The Chanticleers experienced some typical occurrences of the first day of practice in the summer humidity. “We had a couple guys throwing up but we’ll work with that as the season goes on,” senior linebacker Shane Johnson said.
Coastal is moving into the Sun Belt Conference and is eligible for a conference championship but is not bowl-eligible this season as it completes the transition from the Football Bowl Subdivision to FBS.
“Every game is our championship game,” Johnson said. “Our outlook on the season is the same, no matter if we have a postseason or not. Every game we’re going to give our best.”
Coming off a 10-2 season in FCS and 51-15 record in Moglia’s five seasons, the Chants were picked to finish last in the Sun Belt in a poll of the conference’s head football coaches.
“We definitely have to come out with a little chip on our shoulder and just prove to everybody we belong,” said senior quarterback Tyler Keane of Myrtle Beach. “Obviously it’s going to be a big step up, but we just have to put our head down and work and make sure we’re able to put a team out there that can compete.”
It’ll be a little transition for us, but I think we’ll continue to work hard each and every day and get better as a team. So far it’s business as usual, going out and grinding every day.
CCU senior QB Tyler Keane
Keane is one of eight quarterbacks on CCU’s roster.
Austin Wilson is a graduate transfer from Syracuse. Dalton Demos is a graduate transfer from Northern Iowa, where he played wide receiver after spending his first two collegiate seasons as a QB at CCU. Junior 2016 season-opening starter Josh Stilley has returned from a knee injury, sophomore Chance Thrasher has been moved back to QB after experimenting at linebacker, and sophomore Austin Bradley, junior Kilton Anderson and freshman Darius Harper are also signal-callers.
“We’ve got a couple new guys, so it’s going to be a long competition up until Week 1,” Keane said.
Chadwell said the team will proceed this year under the standards Moglia has established at CCU, including the Be A Man (BAM) team motto.
“We all feel we owe it to him to make sure we continue to do what he’s built, and make sure when he comes back here in December it didn’t slip and we’re making it go forward, and that’s what we want to do as a staff,” Chadwell said. “… The expectations and priorities of the program, we want to make sure they keep going.”