CONWAY A few of the 18 seniors or graduate students who played their final games at Coastal Carolina in Saturday’s 28-17 win over Georgia Southern at Brooks Stadium added to their legacies.
Running back Osharmar Abercrombie gained 133 yards on 19 carries and scored two touchdowns to record his third 100-yard game this season and fourth in his career, and reached 1,932 career rushing yards to move past Eric O’Neal for fifth on the CCU all-time rushing list, trailing only current Denver Broncos member De’Angelo Henderson, Aundres Perkins, Patrick Hall and Lorenzo Taliaferro.
“It wasn’t easy trying to take over leadership, trying to replace a guy like De’Angelo Henderson,” Abercrombie said. “Through the process he told me what to do. I looked at guys like Quinn Backus and Alex Ross, and I just looked at how they led and what they did and tried to follow in their footsteps.”
Linebacker Shane Johnson had 13 tackles to finish the season with 101 and become just the fifth Chant with at least 100 tackles in a season despite missing nearly three full games this year due to injury. He led the Sun Belt in tackles in conference games.
“It feels good to be a leader in the conference, but it’s even better to lead this team,” Johnson said. “… I just wanted to make sure as a team I left these guys on a good note and left them with the right momentum coming into next season.”
Receiver Chris Jones had his 26th catch of the season and averaged 20.6 yards per reception to shatter his season record of 18.3 yards in 2015. His career average of 17.7 yards per catch over 88 receptions is also a school record. Jones also returned three punts Saturday, giving him 57 for 611 yards in his career.
Myrtle Beach High grad Tyler Keane, who threw for 2,250 yards over the past two seasons, did not start because of a thumb injury but entered the game in the final two minutes to take the last couple snaps and close out the win.
Coastal Carolina interim head coach Jamey Chadwell took particular joy in Saturday’s victory over Georgia Southern.
When Georgia Southern was looking to replace Willie Fritz after he resigned to become head coach at Tulane after the 2015 season, Chadwell was reportedly a finalist and may have been close to getting the job before the university instead hired Tyson Summers.
Chadwell was the head coach at Charleston Southern at the time and became Coastal’s offensive coordinator and associate head coach this past offseason.
Summers lasted just a year and a half before being fired through six winless games this season with a 5-13 record. Chadwell, meanwhile, was the interim head coach at CCU this year as coach Joe Moglia took a five-month medical leave.
“I do have personal issues [with Georgia Southern] but you try not to let the emotions of the deal, whatever it may be of what happened, I don’t want to say cloud you, maybe it motivates you,” Chadwell said. “But that’s between us and not this team, me and them. Was it good to win? Yeah. It was good to be able to do it especially because they had all the momentum and all the things that everybody’s saying how great they are and all this and that, and we dominated them for four quarters so that felt good.”
Chadwell said he believes Georgia Southern, in addition to being a personal rival for at least the near future, could become one of Coastal’s bigger rivals in the Sun Belt Conference.
“Georgia Southern obviously being relatively close to us is probably going to become a natural rival,” he said. “They were riding a lot of momentum coming in here and it was good for us to play well off an open week. We probably could have beaten them a little worse.”
Chadwell had a good amount of success as Charleston Southern’s head coach from 2013-16, going 37-14 and being named the Big South Conference Coach of the Year three times and a finalist for the Eddie Robinson FCS National Coach of the Year honor twice.
Yet he was still able to learn from CCU coach Joe Moglia despite Moglia largely being away from the program during a five-month medical leave that is set to expire at the end of the year.
“Those meetings, those text messages, those emails were very valuable to me and my growth in this position to try to put it out there on the product of what he wants to see on a weekly basis,” Chadwell said. “… It has been a learning experience. It hasn’t been easy by any means, but very valuable and something I can gain going forward.”
The Coastal Carolina football program is run differently than any other program in the country, particularly as it relates to player conduct and resulting discipline.
The program does not have any rules for players. But Moglia employs a Be A Man (BAM) philosophy that holds players to the behavioral standards of treating others with respect, being responsible for your actions and living with the consequences of those actions.
So the seniors who played their final game Saturday have had a different college football experience than they would have received had they chosen another school.
“I think I got a lot more mature,” receiver Chris Jones said. “I know when I first came in I was like a little head case and things like that. But I finally bought into the concept of BAM. When I first came here it was like we don’t have any rules here so basically you do what you want. But at the end of the day you have to realize what you do good or bad is going to have a consequence at the end of the day. So it was something I had to grasp onto and really take into myself to become the guy I am now. I don’t think I would be the person I am today if I hadn’t chosen to come to this program.”
Linebacker Shane Johnson missed his redshirt freshman season after being suspended from the school and football team because of his involvement in a fight, and now has a potential pro football career after recording 101 tackles this season.
“Being under coach Moglia was something that is completely different than anything else,” Johnson said. “Instead of being a head coach he was more like family. You know how you didn’t want to let your dad down? It was one of those type of things. … He definitely has a lot of people’s respect for that. He didn’t really have to say much to us. We respected the coaches, and that’s what keeps BAM alive here. Just having that respect for your coaches and looking at them like these guys want the best for us and you have to understand that coming in.”
There is a new early signing period this year for Division I football recruits in the class of 2018 that runs from Dec. 20-22, and the Chanticleers are hoping to sign a dozen or more players in that period.
Interim head coach Jamey Chadwell said the Chants have 10 recruits who are already verbally committed, and about eight high school players were on campus on recruiting visits during the Chants’ win over Georgia Southern on Saturday.
“We’re hoping to have 12 to 15 by Dec. 20 and that leaves us another month or so to finish the rest of the class,” Chadwell said.
The 247sports.com recruiting site credits the Chants with one early signee in Da’kendall James of Portsmouth, Va., and another seven verbal commitments in athlete Israel Spivey of Ellenwood, Ga., receiver Jaivon Heiligh of Venice, Fla., quarterback Bryce Carpenter of Venice, Fla., tight end Jerrod Clark of Brighton, Mass., defensive end Shaquor Newkirk of Harrells, N.C., safety Khalil Barrett of Havelock, N.C., and linebacker Jamar Darboe of Church View, Va.
Beginning next year, recruits can take official visits beginning in April of their junior year compared to the current visiting period that begins after the start of their senior year.
Players will have the choice of whether to sign in December or wait until the signing period that starts on the first Wednesday of February and runs until April 1.
The presence of recruits at Saturday’s game may have made the victory significant to future CCU teams.
“I think it’s important in two ways. We did have some prospects here today, so they see you play well and that’s their last image,” Chadwell said. “Your players are more excited because they won two in a row and feel confident about where the direction is headed, so I think that’s a big deal. Ultimately they’re going to come here not because we won two games in a row, they’re going to come here because they see the direction we’re headed.”