CSU parlays strong season into an strong class

Malik Brown, who is going to Charleston Southern to play football, poses with his nephew Sincere Fleming for a photo taken by Hanna Sirisky during Charleston County School District National Signing Day on Wednesday February 3, 2016. Grace Beahm/Staff

If the most successful season in school history doesn’t help recruiting, nothing will.

Charleston Southern head football coach Jamey Chadwell announced a signing class of 19 players on Wednesday afternoon, parlaying a top 10 FCS national ranking into a signing class that fills several areas of need.

The Buccaneers won the Big South Conference championship, finished with an 10-3 record and played in the FCS national playoffs for the first time, earning a win over The Citadel before losing in the quarterfinals to eventual national runner-up Jacksonville State.

Chadwell says the Charleston Southern brand has become more widely known on the recruiting trails, which makes for a better signing class.

“In terms of more people knowing more about who we are and what we are about, it’s definitely different than it was when I came here,” said Chadwell, who is 28-10 in three seasons at CSU. “The success of the last three years, being on TV some, it’s a lot easier to get guys on our campus to see what we have going on. We’re not having to explain who we are as much. Kids and coaches have a different perception of our program now.”

CSU’s focus during this recruiting cycle was adding depth along the offensive line and increasing talent at the skill positions. The most pressing need was at quarterback. CSU returns only one quarterback — Kyle Copeland — with game experience. Expected to provide immediate depth and competition is Robert Mitchell of Blinn Junior College in Texas. Mitchell already is enrolled and will go through spring practice.

“With only one guy that has taken a snap in a game, we felt we really needed someone that has some experience and Robert is a very productive player,” Chadwell said. “We have some redshirted guys at quarterback that are going to be really good but they haven’t played in a game. Having just one with experience was not ideal.”

Chadwell and his staff did particularly well in the area of running backs, a staple in CSU’s shotgun option attack. Among the signees were a pair of in-state all-staters — Terrence Wilson of Batesburg-Leesville and Slade Carroll of Lexington.

Wilson is his school’s all-time leading rusher and is considered one of the top five senior running backs in the state. Carroll rushed for more than 2,000 yards in 2015, helping lead the Wildcats to the Division II-AAAA state final.

“With our offense, running back is always a need,” Chadwell said. “We have a good group returning at running back and we redshirted some good ones, but when you get a chance to attract good talent, you take those opportunities. Obviously, Terrence and Slade fit what we do and they were very productive players in high school.”

Locally, CSU signed West Ashley defensive back Malik Brown and Colleton County linebacker Nick Salley — both North-South all-star game selections.

Lexington defensive back Nick Graves, a former Citadel commitment, and Westside receiver Matthew Martin, both played in the Shrine Bowl all-star game. Chadwell says Martin is one that could make an early contribution. Most of last year’s signing class redshirted in 2015 so many of those will be poised to contribute in 2016.

“More of last year’s class will make an impact more so than this class,” Chadwell said. “A linebacker or two, maybe a few in the secondary, may have to play early so we will certainly give those guys a long look. It’s more depth than anything. We just need to have some guys ready to play and contribute. We tell everyone to come in and compete. If they are good enough and ready to play, they will play.”

Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown/School

Slade Carroll RB 5-10 205 Lexington HS

Malik Brown DB 5-11 190 West Ashley HS

Zack Epting OL 6-2 294 Christ Church HS

Terrence Wilson RB 5-9 190 Batesburg-Leesville HS

Matthew Martin WR 6-2 175 Westside HS

Jack Chambers QB 5-10 165 Lilburn, Ga.

Geoffrey Wall WR 5-9 175 High Point, N.C. *

Leroy Henry OL 6-2 323 St. Cloud, Fla.

Omar Calderon OL 6-2 267 Ormond Beach, Fla.

Stefan Williams LB 6-0 213 Arcadia, Fla.

Jonathon Earl LB 5-10 211 Airport HS

Nick Graves DB 6-2 165 Lexington HS

Josh Bell DB 5-10 166 Fairfield Central HS

Jarrod Stanley DB 5-6 165 Fairburn, Ga.

Nicholas Salley LB 6-0 190 Colleton County HS

Ethan Ray LS 6-0 185 Boiling Springs HS

Garris Schwarting WR 5-10 160 Bamberg-Ehrhardt HS

Evan Cruz Ath 5-8 170 Viera, Fla.

Robert Mitchell QB 6-0 220 Blinn JC *

*already enrolled