The stars get the headlines and most of the credit for winning games, but no team can be great without solid second-line help.
WHO: Charleston Southern (10-1, 3-0 Big South) at Gardner-Webb (0-3, 5-5 Big South).
WHEN: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: Boiling Springs, N.C.
There can only be 22 starters in football, but often times it is the next 22, the backups, who have an equally large role in the success or failure of any team.
Charleston Southern is nearing the end of the school’s best football season in history, taking a No. 12 national ranking and 10-1 record into Saturday’s game at Gardner-Webb. Up and down the roster, this year’s team has very few stars. What it does have is a group of players who play with an unselfish attitude.
A lot of the unselfish play comes from the backups.
Two of CSU’s biggest backups are freshman quarterback Kyle Copeland and freshman running back Michael Holloway. Entering the season, neither was on the radar to even see playing time this fall. Instead, both have become integral parts of CSU’s offensive success down the stretch.
“Both of those guys embody what a backup is,” said CSU head coach Jamey Chadwell. “You show up every day, work hard, wait for your opportunity, and make the most of that opportunity when it comes around. As a player, you cannot control when that opportunity will come, but you have to be ready.”
Holloway, a 5-8, 180-pounder out of Atlanta, has rushed for 326 yards in CSU’s last five games, averaging 10.3 yards per carry. Holloway had eight carries through eight games but has 24 carries for 223 yards over the last three games. He had 79 yards rushing on seven carries and caught a 20-yard touchdown pass in last Saturday’s win over Coastal Carolina.
“I know my role and I just enjoy helping this team win any way I can,” Holloway said. “I don’t worry about anything except doing what this team needs me to do.”
Copeland, who hails from Arp, Texas, and ended up at CSU after a year at the Air Force Academy prep school, began this season as the third-team quarterback. When senior starter Malcolm Dixon injured a knee against Appalachian State, backup Danny Croghan moved into the starter’s role and Copeland moved up the depth chart. With Croghan forced to sit out CSU’s game at Colorado with a concussion, Copeland started and played the entire game.
“I think he turned the corner that day mostly because the other guys on our offense saw he could do some things to help this team win,” said Chadwell. “He has always been a confident player, but now his teammates are confident in him and that’s huge.”
Copeland rushed for 79 yards and threw his first career touchdown pass against Coastal Carolina last week. He has rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns this season.
“I am very comfortable with what the coaches ask me to do, and I think Danny and I work well together in terms of both of us being able to lead the offense,” said Copeland. “I understand he is the starter, but I know in each game I am going to get a chance. I just try to make sure the offense continues to be productive.”