Coastal Carolina stadium expansion, new features finished
Who: Eastern Michigan (0-0) at Coastal Carolina (0-0)
When: 3:30 p.m. (Eastern)
Where: Brooks Stadium, Conway
Occasion: Season opener
TV: Live online on ESPN+
Radio: WRNN 99.5-FM
Live stats: Through www.goccusports.com/sidearmstats/football/summary and GameTracker
This is the teams’ first meeting
Strength: Defensive line, linebackers
Weakness: Inexperienced secondary
Strength: Secondary, pass defense
Weakness: Offensive line turnover
Eastern Michigan’s offensive line vs. Coastal Carolina’s defensive front seven: Eastern Michigan is replacing three starters on its offensive line this season after rushing for just 145.4 yards per game in 2018 to rank 96th in FBS and gaining 372 total yards of offense per game, which ranked 92nd. Coastal gave up nearly 245 yards per game on the ground last year to rank 120th out of 130 FBS teams, but the defensive front and linebacker corps should be strengths for the Chants this season, with numerous starters returning.
Saturday will also be the first test for Coastal Carolina’s new 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Chad Staggs. The Chants played a 4-3 last year, and the defensive line of Tarron Jackson, Sterling Johnson and C.J. Brewer, as well as linebackers Teddy Gallagher and Silas Kelly all return with experience and are all upperclassmen.
“I do feel good about our defensive line and our front seven . . . I think they do a nice job,” CCU head coach Jamey Chadwell said. “They’re experienced so they’ve seen a lot, so I think they’ll be the leaders for us. I think you’ll see us really play hard and hopefully be very aggressive, try to mix up a lot of different things. We’re going to have to because of some of the youngness and inexperience we have in the secondary, we can’t just line up in one defense and expect to beat some people, so we’re going to have to do some different things to try to create some chaos for the offense.”
Players to watch
Junior defensive end Tarron Jackson (6-2, 265): He was a disruptive force last season with 58 total tackles including 11 for a loss of yards and he also broke up a pass and had five quarterback hurries.
Junior running back C.J. Marable (5-10, 190): The Presbyterian transfer averaged 6.1 yards per carry last season, gaining 719 yards on 118 carrries with six TDs. He also had 15 receptions for 180 yards and two scores and should get more touches this season.
Sophomore quarterback Fred Payton (6-2, 190): The native of Suwanee, Ga., completed 49 of 75 passes for 677 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions as a freshman while also gaining 142 yards on 46 carries.
Senior running back Shaq Vann (5-10, 222): He led the team with 590 yards rushing and five scores last season, and has played in 34 games in his career with 17 starts.
Senior quarterback Mike Glass III (6-0, 209): He threw for 1,024 yards and nine TDs in eight games last year in a platooning situation, while also rushing for 412 yards and six TDs with back-to-back 100-yard rushing games.
Senior cornerback Kevin McGill (6-2, 200): The preseason First Team All-MAC selection had 38 tackles, six pass breakups, a forced fumble and a team-high three interceptions last season.
He said it
“You want to make sure your team is prepared and they don’t go out there and look like they’ve never been coached. You try to cover as many of the situations as possible and then let them go out there and have fun.”” – CCU head coach Jamey Chadwell on the season opener
““He’s looked awesome. He had a great spring, great camp. He did a real good job when we did our scrimmaging type stuff. I’m sure you’ll still see Bryce [Carpenter] at some point in the game but Fred definitely earned his job for sure.” – CCU junior offensive lineman Trey Carter on QB Fred Payton
“Even though it was an internal head coaching hire [at Coastal] there seems to be a number of changes on the staff, and obviously that’s going to affect what we see in Game 1 without having any film. . . . When you’ve got new folks involved and new leadership it really becomes a guessing game.” – Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton
Coastal has an eight-game winning streak in home openers dating to a 2010 loss to Georgia Southern, and plays its first game in Brooks Stadium since it was expanded in the offseason to more than 19,000 seats and a capacity of about 20,000.
“It’s important to get that first win, the first home game of the season, hopefully we can keep our streak alive,” junior defensive lineman C.J. Brewer said. “I know it’s going to be big for the team, big for the community and everybody can see what we’ve been working for.”
The Chants, who are trying to snap a four-game losing streak, were not good at home last year. They went 1-4 at Brooks Stadium, losing their final four home games to Louisiana-Monroe, Appalachian State, Arkansas State and Georgia Southern by a combined score of 153-60.
CCU sophomore Fred Payton earned the starting QB nod for the season opener after a competition with fellow sophomore Bryce Carpenter, though Carpenter is also likely to play as Chadwell has shown the propensity to play multiple quarterbacks in games over the past couple years.
Payton (6-2, 190) completed 49 of 75 passes (65.3 percent) for 677 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions in CCU’s spread option offense last year, while Carpenter (6-1, 205) completed 37 of 55 passes (67.3 percent) for 464 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Chants may struggle to pass the ball against EMU. The Eagles were third in the nation and first in the Mid-American Conference in passing yards allowed per game last season at 150.2, and the secondary returns nearly intact from 2018, including captains Kevin McGill and Vince Calhoun. The Eagles’ 4-2-5 defense features four seniors and a junior in the secondary.
▪Coastal is 0-2 againt MAC schools, with both losses coming on the road when CCU was an FCS program: losing 18-0 to Kent State in 2009 and 38-28 to Toledo in 2012.
▪ The Chants have won their season opener in seven of the past eight years, the exception being a 49-15 loss at South Carolina last season.
▪ CCU was picked to finish fourth in the five-team Sun Belt Conference East Division in the league’s preseason poll, and EMU was picked to finish fourth in the MAC’s six-team West Division.
▪ After going 29 years without a bowl berth, EMU has played in bowl games in two of the past three seasons.
▪ The Eagles should be good on special teams. They return punter Jake Julien, who was All-MAC Second Team with 13 punts of 50-plus yards last year, and kicker Chad Ryland, who was 12 of 20 on field goals and made all 41 PAT attempts in 2018.
▪ EMU is 5-1 in season openers under Creighton, but this will be the first time it opens the season on the road during his tenure.
Eastern Michigan -6
Eastern Michigan 31, Coastal 27: Can Coastal score enough against a team that allowed just 22.1 points per game last season?