Coastal Carolina went through seven quarterbacks in 2016, and six players took snaps from center in games last season.
The quarterback position has been a turnstile since All-American Alex Ross, who is now in the Canadian Football League, left following the 2015 season.
Graduate student Kilton Anderson is ready to bring stability to the position this season, starting with the opener at South Carolina on Sept. 1.
Anderson, who played in six games last season, won the starting job early in preseason camp and intends to keep it.
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“Kilton is a solid No. 1. He’s earned that right,” said CCU associate head coach and offensive coordinator Jamey Chadwell, who runs a spread option offense. “The end of last year was really up and down, and I thought his spring was up and down, so it was a wide open competition.
“Obviously he’s got the most experience out of anybody. We’ve got him and three freshmen and Chance [Thrasher]. . . . But his play this fall camp, he’s done a nice job and he’s solidified that he gives us the best chance to win right now and help us be successful.”
In his six games last year in his first season at CCU, the former Fresno State starter completed 49 of 109 passes for 743 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions, and gained 58 yards rushing on 51 carries while being hampered much of the season with a nagging hamstring injury.
“I think last year I could have competed a little bit better if I could have been healthy,” Anderson said. “I think that definitely set me back a little bit not being able to run.
“This year we had a great competition. We had a lot of young guys that came in and impressed a lot of people. The consistency side of things I think is what put me up on the forefront and it just continued to get better and I never took my foot off the gas.”
Anderson, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, said he has spent the past offseason studying the playbook and working to eliminate little mistakes on things such as executing handoffs. “I definitely eliminated those [mistakes] out of the way,” Anderson said. “It has been football ever since the season started over. Since spring ball started it has been nothing but football, no fun.”
Those competing for the primary backup job are all inexperienced. Thrasher is a junior but has thrown just 10 career passes largely because of injuries, and the other quarterbacks getting valuable snaps in preseason are freshmen Bryce Carpenter of Sarasota, Fla. – the reigning Florida Mr. Football – Fred Payton of Suwanee, Ga., and Matt Beale of Myrtle Beach and Carolina Forest High.
Chadwell expects at least Thrasher to have a role this season. “Chance has been around and knows how to play, he just has to improve his consistency,” he said.
Considering a rash of injuries have greatly contributed to the recent instability at QB, there are never any guarantees.
“What you’re always nervous about is if injury happens, do you have some people behind him that can help you be successful?” Chadwell said. “The people behind Kilton I think have the talent, have the character to help us be a successful offense. Now they’re brand new, so they’re learning and they’re going to make some mistakes.
“But as far as getting that room right where we feel we will have that position solidified, I feel we’re headed in the right direction. We have to continue to recruit, but we feel really good about the young people we have in the room right now and our future.”
CCU averaged fewer than 13.2 completions per game last year, so some stability at quarterback could open up the offense and give a talented receiving corps more opportunities to make plays.
“I believe in Kilton a lot. We just have to go out there and make things happen,” said junior receiver Ky’Jon Tyler, who had 23 receptions and a pair of touchdowns in 2017. “Kilton played a lot of games last year, so coming into this year it makes it a lot easier knowing we’ve got the quarterback down. . . . Kilton, he’s great right now. He knows a lot of the routes and points we’re going to break out of our routes. He knows where to put the ball.”
Anderson grew up in Naples, Fla., moved to Washington state for his senior year in high school, spent two years at Fresno State and attended another pair of schools including New Mexico Military Institute before finding Coastal.
He played in eight games as a redshirt freshman at Fresno State and started five, completing 78 of 157 passes for 87 yards with two TDs and five interceptions while playing through a shoulder injury, and rushing 51 times for 211 yards to finish as the Bulldogs’ third-leading rusher in 2015.
Having lost a starting job he acquired because of injuries and facing a year off following shoulder surgery, Anderson attended New Mexico Military Institute for a year and sought a new football home, eventually landing at CCU.
“I’m definitely getting more comfortable with the system,” Anderson said. “It was a new system for me [in 2017], so getting a little bit more time in there allowed me to be more comfortable with it and just allowed me to play a little bit faster.
“I had to get my legs back under me. I think it was just understanding the speed of the game again with the reads, and the gap fits for all the defensive line and linebackers. Once I got that things just started to flow.”
He’s playing this season as graduate with a business degree and is working on his MBA, and believes he can bring cohesion to the offense both with consistent play and his penchant for making sure his teammates are having fun playing the game.
“He does have some skills, he can throw the ball. He does move well,” Chadwell said. “But he is more mature than the younger kids. He’s been around, he’s been in the system now over a year so he knows it more inside-out than the young guys. His biggest deal is just being consistent. If he can play at a high level consistently he has a chance to be really good, and he gives us the best chance right now to help us play mistake-free football, and that’s why he has earned the job.”