Coastal Carolina

What you need to know for Coastal Carolina vs. UMass

Senior running back Osharmar Abercrombie (32) will be the starter this season with the departure of De’Angelo Henderson.
Senior running back Osharmar Abercrombie (32) will be the starter this season with the departure of De’Angelo Henderson. For The Sun News

Last meeting

This is the teams’ first meeting

Coastal Carolina

Strength: Defensive line. Coastal has experience and talent on the defensive line with the return of Marcus Williamson, Ja’Ree Tolbert, Dwayne Price and Myles White.

Weakness: Quarterback. The Chanticleers have six listed as potential starters on the depth chart, including 2016 season-opening starter Josh Stilley and Myrtle Beach High product Tyler Keane, but none have won the job outright.

Massachusetts

Strength: Head coaching experience. Mark Whipple is in his 10th season at Massachusetts and 20th season as a head coach overall, and is 57-55 at UMass and 129-87 including stints at New Haven and his alma mater Brown.

Weakness: Defensive backfield. The Minutemen allowed Hawaii’s Dru Brown to complete 25 of 38 passes for 391 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in their opener. Receiver John Ursua caught 12 balls for 272 yards.

Key matchup

Coastal Carolina defensive line vs. UMass offensive line: Perhaps the biggest challenge for Coastal moving up to the FBS level will be the size and strength of offensive and defensive lines. The strength of Coastal’s defense will be its defensive line featuring starters Marcus Williamson, Ja’Ree Tolbert, Dwayne Price and Myles White, as well as middle linebacker Shane Johnson. None weigh 300 pounds. No starter on the UMass offensive line weighs less than 300, and the line averages 6-4  1/2 , 324 pounds.

Players to watch

Coastal Carolina

RB Osharmar Abercrombie: The senior has waited behind All-American and current Denver Broncos RB De’Angelo Henderson and takes of the starting duties with career numbers of 1,198 rushing yards, 211 carries and 15 TDs in 34 games.

LB Shane Johnson: The preseason Athlon Sports Fourth-Team All-Sun Belt selection at middle linebacker ranked second on the team last season with 66 tackles despite missing two games.

Massachusetts

TE Adam Breneman: The grad student was among the nation’s most productive tight ends last season with 70 receptions, 808 receiving yards and eight touchdown receptions, and is tough to stop at 6-5 and 255.

DE Da’Sean Downey: Led UMass in tackles for loss (8.5), sacks (6) and forced fumbles (4) last year as a hybrid LB/DE despite missing two games.

He said it

▪  “There’s no replacing a guy like De’Angelo Henderson, he’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen with my own eyes, in person. So I’m just going to play my game. It’s a great feeling being behind him and learning from him, but I’m just going to play my game. My main goal is just to make all of the Coastal Carolina community proud and give everything I’ve got every play.” CCU senior RB Osharmar Abercrombie

▪  “I hope the expectations are we’re going to have a packed-out crowd and a lot of student involvement. I think there is great excitement about making this jump, playing new teams you’ve never played before and the first FBS game. I hope we can create a home-field advantage where not only is it packed out all the time but they stay.” CCU interim head coach Jamey Chadwell

Scouting report

The Chanticleers are playing their season opener and first game at the FBS level while UMass, an FBS independent, played a back-and-forth game at home with what is traditionally a decent Hawaii team before falling 38-35 last Saturday. The Minutemen, coming off a 2-10 season in 2016 in which it lost several close decisions, led by two touchdowns in the second half and lost on a touchdown with 48 seconds remaining.

Line

UMass -2.5

Prediction

Massachusetts 34, Coastal Carolina 27

Alan Blondin: 843-626-0284, @alanblondin

Saturday’s game

Who: Coastal Carolina (0-0) at Massachusetts (0-1)

When: 7 p.m. ET

Where: Brooks Stadium, Conway

TV: ESPN3 online network

Radio: 99.5-FM

Series history: Inaugural meeting

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