From the day he arrived on campus as the school’s head football coach in December, Jamey Chadwell has worked hard to change the culture and attitude, as well as the perception, of the Charleston Southern football program.
Date Opp. Time
Aug. 31 at The Citadel 6 p.m.
Sept. 7 Shorter 11 a.m
Sept. 14 at Campbell 6 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Norfolk State 4 p.m.
Sept. 28 at Appalachian State 3:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 North Greenville 11 a.m.
Oct. 12 at VMI 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 Charlotte 1 p.m.
Nov. 2 at Presbyterian 2 p.m.
Nov. 9 Coastal Carolina 1 p.m.
Nov. 16 at Gardner-Webb 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 23 Liberty 11 a.m.
As an assistant coach on the staff in 2005, Chadwell was around when the Buccaneers won their only Big South Conference title. Since leaving to become a head coach at North Greenville and then Delta State, Chadwell always had a goal to return to CSU and leave his own stamp on the program. Now is his chance.
He inherits a program that has not had a winning season since 2009, though did seem to show life in last season’s 5-6 finish. Chadwell worked several years for former head coach Jay Mills and has nothing but positive things to say about his former boss. But, like every new head coach, Chadwell has different ideas for the program.
“We’ve had three straight losing seasons here and I feel like we just need to wipe the slate clean and change the culture,” said Chadwell. “Mainly what we have tried to do is put our stamp and our personality on the program. In the end, though, we have to get them to believe in us, the coaches. I think we’re headed in the right direction in that area.”
The coach has made significant changes to the program, including new look uniforms and helmets and changes in start times on Saturday. He also opened up competition for playing time, allowing for last year’s backups and newcomers to unseat returning starters.
“We had a lot of guys returning that have played a lot in the past, but we brought in a lot of guys that we have given some opportunities to and those guys are responding well,” said Chadwell. “We’re going to have some guys on the bench that were starters last year, and that’s because of the competition and the way the young people reacted to their opportunities.”
Senior quarterback Malcolm Dixon, basically the starter the last two seasons, is one player that responded well to the open competition. He currently ranks fifth in school history in total offense with 3,104 yards, but with a significant change in offensive style, Dixon entered the spring and summer on an even playing field with several backups. He won the position during camp in a competition that Chadwell says ended up not being close.
“I think Malcolm approached everything in the right way, with the right attitude, and to be honest, it has not been close,” the coach said. “It’s his fourth system really in four years so it has been tough on him. But I think he just really matured and grew as a leader over the summer.”
Bishop England grad Danny Croghan, a redshirt freshman, enters the season as the backup under center.
The change in offensive philosophy means the Bucs will operate more out of a spread option attack with a heavier emphasis on running the football. Dixon has been a solid runner during his career and will continue to be a threat. Junior transfer Christian Reyes (5-10, 218) earned the starting nod at running back with an impressive performance during the spring and preseason. Freshman Ben Robinson of Tallahassee, Fla., will start alongside Reyes.
None of the starting offensive linemen are seniors and the unit has four freshmen and four sophomores on the two-deep.
“We have tried to create a physical mentality up front and I feel like the guys up front have embraced that,” says line coach and offensive coordinator Gabe Giardina. “I think we’re starting to find some good chemistry. They have had a lot to learn in a short time, and they have done a solid job.”
Goose Creek alum Kevin Glears earned one of the starting roles at receiver during camp, as did East Carolina transfer Donte Sumpter.
Changes are evident on defense as well as new coordinator Chad Staggs moves the unit into a 3-4 alignment with heavy emphasis on a variety of blitz packages.
“We want to be an aggressive, attacking defense, bringing a lot of pressure from all sides,” said Staggs.
Junior nose tackle James Smith has been a dominant performer during camp, according to Staggs. Senior end Will Hunt is one of the top returning pass rushers in the Big South. Senior linebacker Calvin Bryant, and senior corners Eli Lee and Damian Dixon are key returning leaders as well.
“I’m pleased overall with our camp and the way this group came to work every day,” said Chadwell. “We still have a long ways to go. We’re just getting started here. But in terms of effort and attitude, I have been very impressed. We really have some good young men in this program. We’re excited about the potential of this team and of this program going forward.”