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This CCU football team is young. Would you believe the youngest in the nation?

Wide receiver Jaivon Heiligh is one of several true freshmen who played for Coastal Carolina on Saturday in its 2018 season-opening game at South Carolina.
Wide receiver Jaivon Heiligh is one of several true freshmen who played for Coastal Carolina on Saturday in its 2018 season-opening game at South Carolina. jbell@thesunnews.com

At the end of last season, Coastal Carolina was starting the youngest offensive line in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision consisting of two true freshmen, two redshirt freshmen and a sophomore.

The Chanticleers have taken it a step further this year.

Coastal appears to be the youngest FBS team outright in 2018.

On a roster of 121 players, Coastal has just 13 seniors or grad students and 92 underclassmen, defined as freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores.

That’s two more underclassmen than the next youngest team, Nebraska, according to statistics from college sports information directors across the country.

Underclassmen account for 76 percent of Coastal’s large roster, which is second only to Illinois, which has 78 underclassmen on a roster of 102 players for 76.5 percent.

“The fact that we’re young is kind of a good thing as far as the future goes, and the fact we’re going to get the 15 scholarships back, so all those things are good as far as the future goes,” CCU head coach Joe Moglia said. “But I’m not worried about any of that now because there’s nothing we can do about that.”

In addition to its youth, Coastal will be at a disadvantage this year with only 70 available scholarships compared to the 85 scholarships its FBS opponents will all have as it completes its transition to FBS from the Football Championship Subdivision.

“Fifteen scholarships on signing day doesn’t mean that much because a lot of times they’re wrong, but 15 scholarships fine-tuned over a couple years, that’s a lot of extra players, and that’s going to have an impact on our overall depth as well as special teams. That would be our biggest disadvantage coming into the season.”

Of 54 players on Coastal’s released offensive and defensive depth charts this week, just seven are seniors or grad students.

The Chants do return five players who started every game last season at the same position in sophomore right guard Trey Carter, who is now the starting center, junior right tackle Ethan Howard, senior wide receiver Malcolm Williams, senior cornerback Anthony Chesley and senior safety Fitz Wattley.

The Chants played several true freshmen Saturday at South Carolina, and Bryce Carpenter’s touchdown pass to Javion Heiligh was the first TD pass/reception between true freshmen in Coastal history. With senior kicker Evan Rabon missing the opener because of a back injury, Massimo Biscardi became the first true freshman in school history to kick three field goals.

The CCU coaching staff will have redshirting decisions to make later in the year. Under a new rule this year, a player can participate in up to four games and still be eligible for a redshirt season.

“This year at least we’re not going to worry too much at all about the new redshirt rule primarily because we’re going to need to use our guys if we don’t have enough players to wind up going around,” Moglia said. “As we get halfway through the season, we would take another good look at that to in effect evaluate our status and what would make sense or be smart moving forward.”

The team youth has some of the upperclassmen taking on the role of mentor to many of their young teammates.

“Me personally, I try to take a much bigger leadership role and bring more guys along to have a professional mindset about showing up and making sure you handle what you need to in order for this team to be successful,” said running back Marcus Outlow, who is one of seven CCU players who have already earned undergraduate degrees. “I feel like a lot of young guys are really embracing that and it’s starting to show.”

Conversely, Coastal’s opponent at 7 p.m. Saturday at Brooks Stadium in Conway, Alabama-Birmingham, is one of the oldest teams in the country.

According to the National Football Foundation (NFF) and College Hall of Fame, UAB, which defeated Coastal 30-23 last season, has the most players with undergraduate degrees on its roster in the country with 19, which is two more than the next closest team, Clemson. The NFF compiled the list with the help of athletics directors, faculty athletics representatives and sports information directors across the U.S.

Bottom feeder

ESPN senior writer Ryan McGee was clearly not impressed with Coastal’s 3-9 season in its FBS debut last year, and didn’t gain a whole lot more respect for the Chanticleers with their 49-15 loss to South Carolina in their 2018 opener last week.

McGee compiles a humorous look at what he considers the 10 worst football teams at the FBS level in his weekly “Bottom 10” roundup. The Chants have made the first two versions. They were ranked No. 10 in the preseason ranking.

Calling them Myrtle Beach U., McGee wrote: “While at the beach this summer, I ran into some folks from Coastal Carolina, and they said their biggest concern is that they don’t have a single player on the roster who weighs more than 300 pounds. That makes no sense. I can’t visit Myrtle Beach without gaining at least 30. Fried shrimp and funnel cake, y’all!”

CCU has moved up, or down, a spot to No. 9 this week, and McGee says of CCU: “The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (a fancy way of describing a fighting chicken) lost to the South Carolina Gamecocks (also a fancy way of describing a fighting chicken). Now they just need to schedule games with the Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens, Virginia Tech Hokies, Pomona College Sagehens and the Horry County Charter School Cockfighters, though they might want to investigate that last one. It doesn’t sound entirely legal.”

Short yardage

Senior punter and kicker Evan Rabon is expected to miss his second game with a back issue, and he’ll likely be replaced in the lineup by Biscardi at place kicker and sophomore Charles Ouverson at punter. Ouverson averaged 40 yards on four punts last week and narrowly missed pinning South Carolina inside its own 5. . . .

NFL scouts have been regular visitors to Coastal Carolina practices in recent years. Scouts from the Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers were at practice on Wednesday morning.

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