Coastal Carolina is moving up to a new level of football in 2017, and the school’s coaches believe they have a recruiting class worthy of the jump to the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The 25-player class announced Wednesday includes five players deemed three-star recruits by recruiting services, and players from 11 states.
“I feel really good about the class. We believe these guys can help us compete at that [FBS] level,” CCU head football coach Joe Moglia said. “But the reality is you don’t know for a year or two what kind of class you have.”
Simply being an FBS program in 2017 allowed the Chants to target some players who in past years may have been unattainable.
“Many kids in the past, for example, maybe would have had an interest in Coastal Carolina, but because we were a [Football Championship Subdivision] program they were just focused on going to the FBS, so that opens up some more doors for us,” Moglia said.
Cory Bailey, Coastal’s defensive line coach and four-year recruiting coordinator, believes the Chants haven’t just added FBS-caliber athletes, but many they persuaded away from other established programs. “There are a bunch of kids I think had a lot of other options at the FBS level and they’re coming here,” Bailey said. “The FBS tag opens doors, and it makes a bigger impact when you get out of this region a little bit.”
If you look at last year’s class, I think we had 12 guys committed before the university made the announcement we were going to FBS, then we got another 13 after that. I think the 12 we had committed were pretty good, and the other 13 were probably a notch above those guys. The FBS tag opens doors.
CCU recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach Cory Bailey
Moglia identified quarterback as the position with the most need this year, considering the team ran out of listed quarterbacks and had to move Ryan Lee from wide receiver and Tyler Chadwick from graduate intern to the position because of a rash of injuries last season.
The Chants signed two QBs to join their existing signal-callers, who include rising junior Josh Stilley, who won the 2016 starting job before being lost for the season with a knee injury incurred in just the third game.
Darius Harper of Knoxville passed for 3,479 yards and 42 touchdowns and rushed for 455 yards and nine scores as a high school senior this past season, and Syracuse University graduate transfer Austin 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. Bailey said Wilson should vie for the starting job.
“He’d better, not because of our situation, but it wouldn’t make sense to bring in a fifth-year guy unless we thought he could compete for the spot right away,” Bailey said. “We’ll see what he does this spring and we’ll see what the other guys do, but the hope is he’ll push to be the starter there.”
The Chants have lost seven starters on offense and six on defense from the 2016 squad. Positions that have been particularly impacted are the offensive line, where four productive starters have graduated, and the secondary, where another four productive starters are moving on.
Coastal will likely promote upperclassmen in the defensive backfield with just two defensive backs in the class, but six offensive lineman and a tight end are among the signees.
“I think the offensive line group we brought in, they’re bigger and stronger maybe than what we’ve had in the past overall, and there are a lot of numbers in that group,” Bailey said. “I think that’s going to be a really good group.”
One of the offensive line recruits is Carolina Forest High offensive lineman Antwine Loper, who is 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds and is one of nine signees this year from South Carolina. “We’re excited about Antwine. How often do we get a guy who is literally right down the block,” Moglia said.
The Chants also have some skill positions to fill with the loss of senior running back De’Angelo Henderson and wide receivers Bruce Mapp and Devin Brown, who also returned kicks. Four wide receivers were signed, as well as “athlete” Alex Spillum of the Minneapolis area and running back Baden Pinson of Cincinnati.
CCU has four non-freshman in the class in Wilson and junior college transfers wide receiver Mallory Claybourne of Pittsburgh, defensive back Jave Brown of Franklin Park, N.J., and offensive lineman Kenneth Sims of Simpsonville.
“We’d ideally like to bring in a freshman class, but you’re not able to bring in the freshman class all the time at the positions you want to do that,” Moglia said. “Then you have a junior college kid who may have two years, sometimes three years left that fits in the area we need.”
Six of CCU’s signees are already enrolled at the school as mid-year signees, including Wilson. “If the student athlete has the maturity to begin in January that’s an advantage to him and advantage to us,” Moglia said.
The Chants are gaining 22 scholarships to a maximum allotment of 85 as part of its move to the FBS level, though they must be awarded as whole scholarships. The FCS allows 63 scholarships that can be split into partial grants.
A maximum of 25 per year can be awarded, so CCU is still catching up to the total available to established FBS programs after two recruiting seasons since leaving the FCS level.
Moglia said about 20 of the 25 signees will be on scholarship, so the program will have availability moving forward.
“We look at the scholarships like they’re gold to us, so if we’re going to use a scholarship on somebody, we recognize he has to be a fit for the position, he has to be able to play, and he’s got to have the character that buys into the … philosophy of Coastal Carolina,” Moglia said. “If that’s not the case, we would rather hold off at that particular position until we find the right person.”
The Chants will also have football tryouts for its enrolled students who aren’t yet part of the program. “We’ve got to see where we’re strong and where we’re weak … at the end of spring ball, and that will determine if we need to step up and find somebody else specifically,” Moglia said.
Coastal Carolina 2017 signing class
Hometown/ High School or College
Camp Hill, Pa./Syracuse University
Knoxville, Tenn./Austin East HS
Cincinnati, Ohio/Reading HS
Columbia/Ridge View HS
Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood HS
Monroe, N.C./Sun Valley HS
Pittsburgh, Pa./Lackawanna College
Orlando, Fla./Lake Nona HS
Chesapeake, Va./Grassfield HS
Statesville, N.C./Statesville HS
Conway/Carolina Forest HS
Buford, Ga./Mill Creek HS
Simpsonville/Georgia Military College
Hometown/ High School or College
Durham, N.C./Riverside HS
Laurens/Laurens District 55 HS
Duncan/Boiling Springs HS
Lithonia, Ga./Stephenson HS
Atlantic Beach, Fla./The Bolles School
Snellville, Ga./Brookwood HS
Franklin Park, N.J./Lackawanna College
Hometown/ High School or College
Chanhassen, Minn./Chanhassen HS
York/York Comprehensive HS