Out with the old, in with the new. And there’s plenty of new in the Charleston Southern football program this season.
A new head coach, former Notre Dame assistant Autry Denson, is calling the shots in a program that has experienced solid success over the last six years under former head coaches Jamey Chadwell and Mark Tucker.
The coaching staff has a new office complex and CSU’s stadium has a new scoreboard, complete with a large video display and sound system.
As for the new coach, Denson brings with him an upbeat attitude and a new mindset offensively, scrapping the triple option of the previous staffs for the faster paced air-raid attack. That air-raid passing offense is the creation of former Kentucky head coach Hal Mumme and current Washington State boss Mike Leach. Denson is a long-time friend of Mumme and feels comfortable with the new approach.
Denson prefers not to refer to the offense as new. The Buccaneers had an entire spring, summer and preseason camp to install the new playbook.
“The changes have been made and we are who we are, so the guys are doing a good job of just being who we ask them to be,” Denson said. “They have a good understanding of what we want to do on offense and defense and in special teams. Everyday we have tried to come out and get a little better at what we ask them to do.
“From an installation standpoint, it’s an easy offense to install. The system is more in line with the values of our program where we want to keep football simple so that we can have more time as coaches to invest in the lives of our players off the field.”
CSU averaged 16 passes per game a year ago and could easily eclipse that number in a quarter of play this fall. The Bucs averaged 83 passing yards per game, relying more on a rushing attack that averaged 168 yards per contest.
The Bucs have four quarterbacks battling for the starting job. Christian Reid and Jack Chambers are sophomores. Darius Douglas is a transfer from South Carolina who prepped at Berkeley High School. Freshman Ross Malmgren also is in the early mix.
While Denson has named Chambers as the starter and Malmgren the No. 1 backup for Saturday's season opener at Furman, the coach says changes could happen daily at every position.
“Jack has killed it in the preseason and is playing with a lot of confidence,” Denson said. “Jack has clearly taken the lead so far. He has to continue to earn it.
“Guys are auditioning for reps right now, every practice. We will continue to have guys audition in practice all through the season. That’s what practice is for. We will reward them on Saturday based on the audition through the week of practice.”
Junior Terrence Wilson is CSU’s top returning rusher, gaining 540 yards with six touchdowns last season. Ronnie Harris also returns in the backfield and former linebacker Jonathan Earl is a power back that will see considerable playing time.
Anchoring the offensive line are senior guards Zach Evans and Stephen Haralambis, along with redshirt sophomore J.T. Melton.
Senior Kameron Brown headlines a long list of receivers. Brown missed all but three games last season but has 56 career receptions for more than 1,000 yards. He is a two-time second-team all-conference pick.
Tight ends Qua-von Scott and Travay Hatten will factor into the passing game, as well.
Defensively, CSU lost eight starters, including the entire secondary. The Bucs have been led in recent years by a strong front line. Jon Pohahau, Ramero Rock and Shaundre Mims look to be the leaders this season.
Linebackers J.D. Sosebee and Edward King are returning starters, with Garrett Sayegh and Kyle Syvarth also back with significant playing experience. A solid incoming class of recruits figure to see playing time, as well.
Junior Evan Cruz and Jarrod Stanley have moved into starting roles after working as backups a year ago. Ashley Ridge product Hombre Kennedy is the starting strong safety as the season begins.
“We are not young,” defensive coordinator Zane Vance said. “We have a number of guys who have been here and have seen action in games. The difference is now we are asking them to take 50 to 60 snaps a game. We have to create depth. We have to get more than one group ready to play every Saturday.
“I love this group's attitude, leadership and enthusiasm. I have been really pleased with the way they come to work.”
CSU returns one of the top punters in FCS football in Kyle Reighard. Long snapper Ethan Ray is considered the best in the Big South Conference while placekicker Evan Usry will be first-year starter.
CSU returns one of the top punters in FCS football in Kyle Reighard. Long snapper Ethan Ray is considered the best in the Big South Conference while placekicker Evan Usry will be a first-year starter.
Like any coach, Denson would love more time to prepare for the start of the season. After opening at Furman on Saturday, CSU’s early schedule consists of games at South Carolina and The Citadel, and a home game against MEAC favorite North Carolina A&T.
“The biggest challenge is making sure the guys understand the sense of urgency,” Denson said. “We have time but we don’t have as much time as we think. They need to understand that everyday counts. There is no magic formula and there are no shortcuts to getting to where we want to go.”
Charleston Southern Buccaneers
HEAD COACH: Autry Denson, 1st season
LAST YEAR: 5-6 overall (3-2 Big South)
RETURNING STARTERS: Offense 4, Defense 4
IMPACT PLAYERS: RB Terrance Wilson, LB J.D. Sosebee, WR Kameron Brown
NOTABLE: The Bucs are changing from a triple-option offense to passing attack and will need time to gain experience under the new scheme … The defense replaces the entire secondary and several key linemen … The offensive line looks to be a strength but the offense has to get consistency from the quarterback position.
Date Opp. Time
Aug. 31 at Furman 1 p.m.
Sept. 7 at South Carolina 12 p.m.
Sept. 14 North Carolina A&T 6 p.m.
Sept. 21 at The Citadel 6 p.m.
Oct. 5 Savannah State 6 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Kennesaw State 3 p.m.
Oct. 19 at North Alabama 7 p.m.
Oct. 26 Monmouth 6 p.m.
Nov. 2 at Gardner-Webb 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 16 at Presbyterian 1 p.m.
Nov. 23 Campbell 3:30 p.m.
David Shelton’s Big South predictions
1. Kennesaw State
3. Charleston Southern