After earning the reputation as a high-scoring, big-play offensive power the last few years, the easiest takeaway from Coastal Carolina’s football scrimmage Saturday morning was that the offense still has some work to do this preseason.
But certainly, the Chanticleers also still have plenty of time before their Sept. 5 season-opener at Furman to find their rhythm.
“I think we didn’t look sharp, but I think we’re still making sure we understand our assignments,” coach Joe Moglia said after the morning session inside Brooks Stadium. “I think the defense looks at this point to be a little bit ahead of the offense. [From] an offensive perspective, I think we were a little rusty, but everybody was healthy today – that’s a No. 1 priority for us at this time of the year – and it was good work for us today.”
To be fair, the structured scrimmage lasted a little more than an hour and didn’t lend itself to many deep pass attempts or an abundance of big-play opportunities. Time was allotted at the beginning to work on the punting and punt return units and the kicking unit later got an extended look as well.
The offense vs. defense segments were broken up, too, with the first setting the offense at its own 2 with the point to try to get one first down before later working from the other 35-yard line and eventually midfield.
“I think we’ve got a long way to go. I thought the D played great,” offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said. “We’re not ready to play a game right now. We’re making too many mistakes. We’re breaking those new guys in up front, so that’s going to be a work in progress over the next three weeks and we didn’t have a bunch of our wideouts today. It was really uneven. We made some plays and we made too many mistakes.
“So thank God we’re not playing next weekend. [But] we’re still in the middle of camp mode. There was no gameplan or anything ... but there was too many mental [mistakes].”
The offensive highlight was a 22-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Alex Ross to junior receiver Devin Brown, who spun free from a defender after making the catch over the middle on his way into the end zone.
The first-team offense later get stopped on the goal line, though, with the first-team defense stuffing two rush attempts and defending a pass in the back of the end zone.
Overall, Ross finished 7-of-13 passing for 55 yards and a touchdown while having a miscommunication with a receiver on one play and fumbling on a delayed option handoff.
He was more positive about the unit’s overall performance, though.
“I feel like I made the right reads today. There was one ball in particular I probably should have checked down, but other than that I felt like I made the right reads,” Ross said. “It’s just some small things we need to work on. We need to work on coming down with the ball, we need to work on some of the small things on the interior and just sliding the line the right way, just meshing together. But I feel comfortable with where we’re at. I feel we’re in a good spot right now. It’s just those small things we’re going to take care of the next few weeks.”
Senior backup quarterback Michael Church was 3-of-7 passing for 27 yards, redshirt-freshman Josh Stilley was 1-of-2 for 9 yards and an interception and true freshman Chance Thrasher was 3-of-7 for 24 yards at the end of the session.
The leading rushers were junior Kenneth Daniels with four carries for 18 yards and Thrasher with four carries for 21 yards while junior starting running back De’Angelo Henderson had just two carries.
Chants defensive coordinator Clayton Carlin was happy with the play of his unit and the progress made thus far in the preseason.
“It’s been back and forth all camp, offense, defense. But I was pleased with today,” he said. We had a couple takeaways and we swarmed to the ball pretty good.”
Sophomore Kent State transfer Eric Church made the lone interception of the day while junior college transfer Austin Murillo blocked a field goal and junior Clark Krimmer notched a sack.
Church’s interception came on a nice move to step in front of a receiver on a pass from Stilley.
“You’ve got to show up on film. He has steadily been progressing,” Carlin said of Church. “We made that switch over the summer moving him from corner to nickel and he’s going to be right there [in the mix for playing time]. I’m happy with the way he’s progressed.”
No decision on specialists
Moglia said there has been no formal decision on who will fill the Chants’ three open specialist positions.
Junior Ryan Granger, who saw some action last season, would seem to be the favorite at kicker and Moglia acknowledged that, but he added that those spots are still be evaluated.
“We keep data throughout the span of practice and the first day we looked through all the [kicking] stats was literally a day or so ago,” he said. “We think there’s really two guys for each spot and we’ll finalize that by the middle of the following week.”
Granger was good on a 22-yard field goal try Saturday while sophomore Masamitsu Ishibashi was 1-for-2 and freshman Evan Rabon and sophomore Caleb Kelly each converted 35-yard tries.
“During the summer I tried to stay as focused as possible, working on becoming as mentally strong and prepared as I could for camp and the season and I just focused on the little things I needed to,” Granger said.
He indicated that freshman Connor Kubala has emerged as the team’s top candidate at long snapper while sophomore Tyler Keane – the former Myrtle Beach High School quarterback – has been working as the primary holder.
“Our operation has gotten a lot better and I think we’ll be pretty good for the season overall,” Granger said.
Senior linebacker Rayshaud Shields, senior receiver Tyrell Blanks, junior receiver Bruce Mapp, sophomore offensive lineman Rodney Mitchell and redshirt-freshmen offensive linemen Brock Merritt and Jack Flood were held out of action Saturday as a precaution.
None are known to have significant injuries.
“A little bit of a pull, a little banged up, they’re all OK, but we weren’t going to risk them hitting today,” Moglia said. “If we had to play today, I’m pretty confident they’d all be able to play.”