A new era in Charleston Southern football begins with Autry Denson starting his tenure as the Buccaneers' head coach.
Charleston Southern opened preseason practice Friday with plenty of new faces, both on the field and on the sidelines, and a host of unanswered questions. Denson hopes to have more answers by the time his team takes the field at Furman on Aug. 31.
Here are five questions facing the Bucs as they look to bounce back from a 5-6 record last season:
Can Bucs adjust to new offense?
For the last six seasons, CSU’s offensive philosophy centered around an option run game, and the Bucs consistently ranked among the top rushing programs in FCS football.
That will change under Denson, who comes to CSU from Notre Dame. The Bucs will move into an air-raid passing attack under the new staff. CSU averaged less than 16 pass attempts per game last season. That number could easily be topped in the first half of most games this fall.
Senior wideout Kameron Brown, who has twice earned all-conference recognition, returns after missing all but three games last season due to injury. He could potentially have a huge season this fall.
It will take a few recruiting classes to bring in the needed personnel for the new offense, but the staff is committed to the change. CSU has solid depth at running back with Terrence Wilson and Ronnie Harris returning with solid experience. Former linebacker Jonathan Earl could also be a key performer out of the backfield.
The offensive line, led by preseason all-conference pick Zack Evans, could be a strength, so don’t expect a complete abandonment of the running game this fall.
Darius Douglas spent two years at South Carolina before transferring to Charleston Southern.
Who will play quarterback?
Finding the quarterback who can best handle the new offense is priority one. Two quarterbacks, sophomores Christian Reid and Jack Chambers, return from last year. Each attempted 26 passes in backup roles last fall.
South Carolina transfer Darius Douglas, a former Berkeley High star, arrived this summer and has a passing background. Incoming freshman Ross Malmgren posted big numbers in high school and was one of Denson’s first commitments last January.
Reid and Chambers have the edge heading into camp, having spent spring practice sharing reps. Douglas could be the starter early, depending on how quickly he catches on during the preseason. All four quarterbacks could see time in the first few games of the season.
“It’s an open tryout every week,” Denson said. “Week to week, what we do is guys audition for reps in practice. We want to create a positive, competitive environment at every position.”
CSU has boasted one of the top defensive units in the Big South over the last six years. Zane Vance returning as coordinator should help, but the Bucs lack experience.
All four starters in the secondary from 2018 are gone, and the defensive front has several new faces on the two-deep. Linebackers J.D. Sosebee and Edward King are mainstays, but a lot of former backups who will be first-time starters will have to step up quickly if the Bucs are to match previous successes.
While the Bucs return one of the top punters in the Big South in Kyle Reighard, they do have to replace a key member of the special teams unit. Placekicker Tyler Tekac, one of the best to ever kick at CSU, has graduated. Tekac was a consistent threat on field goals with several clutch kicks throughout his career.
Redshirt sophomore Alex Usry will begin the season as the placekicker. He handled kickoffs last season but has yet to attempt a field goal in a college game.
Charleston Southern was picked to finish third Kennesaw State and Monmouth in the Big South Conference preseason football poll.
Can CSU survive early schedule?
Denson and the Bucs face a very difficult early season schedule. After opening at Furman, CSU plays at South Carolina then hosts FCS top 15 team and MEAC favorite North Carolina A&T. Week four has the Bucs at The Citadel.
It is conceivable, and highly likely, that CSU opens at 0-4. But, if Denson can hold things together, the Bucs have several potential wins later in the schedule. The Bucs were picked to finish third in the Big South, but several of those conference games are toss-ups.