Coastal Carolina head football coach Jamey Chadwell believes infighting splintered the team last season, contributing to four consecutive losses to close the season that kept the Chanticleers from reaching their potential and becoming bowl eligible.
He vowed Monday during Sun Belt Conference Football Media Day at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans to keep the Chants together as a team as they attempt to climb from the nether regions of the conference through their first two seasons at the FBS level.
Chadwell pointed to division following a 23-7 loss at home to Appalachian State, after which the Chants were blown out by Arkansas State and Georgia Southern and lost to South Alabama to end the season.
“After that game we had some infighting I believe among our players in our locker room, and it sort of splintered us. And we were not, for whatever reason, able to overcome that,” said Chadwell, who replaces Joe Moglia as head coach this season. “We struggled really as a team playing those last four games and didn’t really play together.
“So our big focus in the offseason is no matter what happens, the adversity we find, we’re going to play together and we’re going to stick together. We’ve done a lot this offseason as far as trying to build a team bond, as far as the guys being together and being one.”
The Chants have finished 2-6 in the conference in each of the past two seasons and improved from 3-9 overall in 2017 to 5-7 last year despite the late losing streak.
Chadwell was the interim head coach in 2017 while filling in for Moglia, who retained the positions at CCU of chairman of athletics and executive director of football. Chadwell spent last season as the associate head coach and offensive coordinator.
“When you’re interim, sort of the substitute, they really don’t listen to you,” Chadwell joked. “So it’s nice now they will. There has not been tons of change. . . . It’s been a good transition and part of already being at a place you know a lot of the skeletons in the closet so that helps the transition.”
The discord that Chadwell perceived may have been reflected in the transfer of at least six players – including a pair of graduates – and attempted transfer by another player this offseason.
Key losses include offensive lineman Brock Hoffman to Virginia Tech and defensive end Jeffrey Gunter to N.C. State.
Only redshirt junior defensive end Tarron Jackson was named preseason All-Sun Belt, appearing on the Second Team. The All-Sun Belt Third Team performer last season was second on the team and fifth in the Sun Belt in tackles for loss with 11 among his 58 total tackles.
“If we all believe and we get on the same page then we ought to be able to accomplish what we want to,” junior offensive lineman Trey Carter said Monday in New Orleans. “In the past we’ve been a little too much individualized where people are caring too much about the award stuff.”
Coastal has been picked to finish fourth in the Sun Belt’s East Division in 2019, according to voting from league coaches and media members who cover the teams.
The Chanticleers received 17 points in the preseason voting, finishing ahead of only Georgia State (13 points). CCU is preceded in the division by Appalachian State (46), Troy (39) and Georgia Southern (35).
The Chants were eighth overall in points received in the 10-team conference, ahead of Georgia State and Texas State (16 points), which was picked to finish last in the West Division, behind Louisiana (46), Arkansas State (42), Louisiana-Monroe (27) and South Alabama (19).
“Our big mantra this offseason is to believe – believing in each other, believing in the new coaching staff and believing we can have a successful season,” Chadwell said. “We spent all offseason really trying to change the mindset of our players because we’ve been told we’re not good enough, you’re just now getting into the Sun Belt and it’s a great league, and you don’t have enough scholarships, all of these different things. Sometimes you start believing you’re not good enough and we need our guys to believe they are good enough.”
Coastal hosts Eastern Michigan at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 31 to open the season, travels to Kansas in the second week, and has six home games including a 7:30 p.m. Thursday night ESPNU prime time game against Louisiana.
“[Eastern Michigan] will be a great win for us if we can figure out how to do that,” Chadwell said. “Any time you take over a program you need something to jump-start it. If we can get off to a great start there, then that gives us a lot of confidence going into Kansas. . . . If we can get that out of the gate, that gives our kids the confidence of what our coaches are selling, they’re buying into a lot quicker than if it takes us awhile to get that first win.”