Charleston Southern football coach Jamey Chadwell heads into his second spring practice knowing a lot more about his football program than he did this time a year ago.
And, with the Buccaneers coming off a 10-3 season, the best in school history, Chadwell said one of the main goals this spring is to continue the momentum established last fall.
Charleston Southern begins spring football practice Tuesday and will hold its annual spring game April 10 under the football stadium's new lights.
"The major difference between now and this time last year is that we know what we have and we know where the pieces fit," said Chadwell, the 2013 Big South Conference coach of the year. "We can turn our focus more to our schemes and fundamentals, trying to improve on the things that we do. We know our personnel and the players know what we expect. This is a great opportunity for us to get better, and we feel there is a high ceiling for us in terms of improvement."
Chadwell and the staff have very little work to do on the offensive side, other than establishing more depth in key positions. CSU did not lose any offensive starters to graduation.
"We will have some competition at some spots because of some guys we redshirted last season," said Chadwell. "The guys we have here now have a chance to impress us and we expect that will happen."
Chadwell says there will be an open competition at quarterback this spring. Sophomore Danny Croghan, who started seven games last season and was named the Big South freshman of the year, will have the early edge. But transfer Austin Brown from UAB is expected to battle for the starting nod, along with sophomore Kyle Copeland.
"Right now, if we run the first-team out there, Danny has obviously earned the right to lead that unit based on his performance and experience last season," Chadwell said. "We know what Danny and Kyle can do. We want to see what Austin brings to the table. What we want is a leader that can take charge of the offense and protect the football. We're excited as a coaching staff about that competition."
Most of the new faces getting longer looks this spring will be on defense. The Bucs lost three of their top four tacklers and have major voids at linebacker and in the secondary. Safety Demaris Freeman, who led CSU with 90 tackles last season, is the lone full-time starter returning in the back seven.
CSU's recent signing class was heavy on defense.
"Those freshmen coming in at linebacker and defensive back will have a chance to contribute early but we have to get a long look at what we have on campus this spring," said Chadwell. "We have two linebackers and three defensive backs that saw some sort of playing time last year. As we told all of them, there is a great opportunity for some guys to step up and earn a starting position."