The doubters and naysayers that criticized Coastal Carolina’s hiring of Joe Moglia as head coach prior to last season have been silenced for at least one year.
Moglia led Coastal Carolina to a share of the Big South title last season and has 13 starters back in 2013. The Chanticleers are the overwhelming choice to win the crown again, especially with the defection of league power Stony Brook.
Coastal Carolina boasts the Big South preseason players of the year on offense and defense in wide receiver Matt Hazel and linebacker Quinn Backus, but will be breaking in a new quarterback.
In reality, the only team that should threaten Coastal Carolina is Liberty, led by returning quarterback Josh Woodrum and running back Aldreakis Allen. The Flames also return nine starters on defense and went 5-1 in league play last year.
Gardner-Webb and Charleston Southern should be next in line, but both programs have new head coaches this fall.
VMI bolts for the Southern Conference after this season, despite struggling to compete in the Big South over the last four years.
Presbyterian head coach Harold Nichols is on the hotseat and needs to show improvement after failing to win a league game last season.
2012: 8-5 overall, 5-1 BSC
COACH: Joe Moglia (8-5 in one season at CCU and overall)
RETURNING STARTERS: 13 (7 offense, 7 defense)
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: LB Quinn Backus, WR Matt Hazel, OL Chad Hamilton, DB Johnnie Houston
OUTLOOK: Chants return top three receivers, all seniors, but break in a new starter at quarterback. The linebackers and secondary are loaded with experience, but the defensive front has only one returning starter. Coastal is heavily favored to win the Big South and if the quarterback play is solid, they should win easily. Coastal allowed 28 points per game last season, including 63 in a second-round playoff loss to Old Dominion.
2012: 6-5 overall, 5-1 BSC
COACH: Turner Gill (6-5 in one season at LU, 31-54 in seven seasons overall)
RETURNING STARTERS: 15 (6 offense, 9 defense)
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: QB Josh Woodrum, RB Aldreakis Allen, DL Cory Freeman, LB Nick Sigmon
OUTLOOK: With Woodrum and Allen back, the Flames should be balanced and productive offensively, but the strength lies on defense with nine returning starters. Liberty allowed only 22 points per game last season. Sigmon was a first-team all-conference selection with 14 tackles for loss. The Flames lack proven receivers but have enough talent to challenge Coastal Carolina for the title.
2012: 3-8 overall, 2-4 BSC
COACH: Carroll McCray (first season at GWU, 16-39 in five seasons overall)
RETURNING STARTERS: 19 (9 offense, 10 defense)
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: QB Lucas Beatty, WR Kenny Cook, DE Preston Permasa, LB Tanner Burch
OUTLOOK: McCray becomes the first GWU alum to serve as head coach and inherits a team full of experience. The Bulldogs stand to be improved offensively after averaging only 20.5 points per game. Beatty threw for 2,483 yards last season and has his top three receivers returning. Bulldogs have to survive a tough four-game stretch to open the season with games against Furman, Marshall, Richmond and Wofford.
2012: 5-6 overall, 3-3 BSC
COACH: Jamey Chadwell (first season at CSU, 23-31 in four seasons overall)
RETURNING STARTERS: 15 (7 offense, 8 defense)
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: QB Malcolm Dixon, RB Teddy Allen, DE Will Hunt, DB Elijah Lee
OUTLOOK: Chadwell has moved offensively from a spread attack to a more run-oriented option game and will need time to recruit personnel. However, the Bucs have several quality backs and a veteran offensive line. Defensively, the outlook appears good with solid athleticism and experience from front to back. The Bucs play four of their first five games on the road.
VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE
2012: 2-9 overall, 1-5 BSC
COACH: Sparky Woods (13-42 in five seasons at VMI, 76-88-5 in 15 seasons overall)
RETURNING STARTERS: 14 (7 offense, 7 defense)
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: QB Eric Kordenbrock, RB Jabari Turner, LB Weston Reber, DL Justin Smith
OUTLOOK: Keydets will play their last season in Big South, aiming to return to the Southern Conference next year. VMI needs improvement in every area, starting with an offense that managed just 133 points in 11 games. Kordenbrock is capable enough, but the Keydets need to run the ball more consistently to rest a defense that allowed 30 points per game. Four returning starters on the offensive line should help in that area.
2012: 2-9 overall, 0-6 BSC
COACH: Harold Nichols (6-38 in four seasons at PC and overall)
RETURNING STARTERS: 15 (8 offense, 7 defense)
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: QB Kaleb Griffin, LB Donelle Williams, LB LJ Perry, WR Jeremiah McKie
OUTLOOK: Nichols hired Tommy Spangler, a former PC head coach, to coordinate the defense, which allowed 38 points per game last season. The offense has to cut down on turnovers and must convert better than 29 percent on third down. Blue Hose have road non-conference games at Wake Forest, Furman and Wofford.