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Know The Opponent: Charleston Southern




It wouldn't be college football without an opener against an FCS team just weird and just good enough to mess around and win, right? 


I hate to scare you all like that, I promise I'm just kidding. (Or maybe I'm not, I am writing this intro before I've done the research for this blog post.) Let's dive in. 




Option football nerds like myself are going to absolutely love this offense. It's a two-back, shotgun option offense. Both of the backs are offset behind the quarterback, creating classic triple option looks but doing so out of the shotgun. 


In fairness, that offense was the brainchild of former coach Jamey Chadwell, who left in the offseason to be the offensive coordinator at brand new member of both the FBS and the Sun Belt Coastal Carolina. (Coastal Carolina's head coach has since decided to take medical leave for the 2017 season and Chadwell will now be the interim head coach.) Charleston Southern replaced him with Mark Tucker, who was Chadwell's quarterbacks coach, and Tucker has no interest in changing the offense. 


He said at his introductory press conference, according to The Post and Courier, "I am an option dinosaur and we are not going to do anything differently. I believe in what we do. We give people fits." 


The Bucs are going to have a returning quarterback in that system in redshirt sophomore Shane Bucenell. He was a solid third rushing option for the team last year: averaging 3.7 yards per carry while factoring in sacks is pretty impressive. He wasn't the starter at the beginning, but he took over three games into the season and started every game since. 


The good news is the Bucs have quarterback depth behind Bucenell: two other quarterbacks, Robert Mitchell and London Johnson, played so much that all three quarterbacks ranked in the top five on the team in carries last year. The bad news: those quarterbacks have no one to hand it off or pitch it to. 


Last year's top two running back producers, Mike Holloway and Darius Hammond, are both gone -- the two guys that accounted for 42 percent of the team's carries, 50 percent of the team's rushing yards and 13 of the team's 30 rushing touchdowns all by themselves. The top returning running backs in terms of consistent playing time from a year ago are all sophomores -- Chanin Hamilton, Geoffrey Wall and Ronnie Harris -- and none of them had more than 25 carries last year. For context: the SEC had 48 players tally at least 25 carries last year and no one in the conference runs the ball as much as Charleston Southern. (I know, not even LSU.) 


On the offensive line, Charleston Southern loses an All-American left tackle but returns everything else, including Florida Atlantic transfer center Joe Gold. If you're the kind of person that's interested in the wide receivers on an option team, the team leader in catches (27) is returning, Kameron Brown. 




The Bucs base in a 3-3-5 and return every starter from the front six: to take it a step further, if you look at the 2-deep from their playoff game last year, the only front six defenders Charleston Southern loses are two backup linebackers, neither of them ranking in the top 11 on the team in tackles. 


The name to know there is linebacker Solomon Brown, who will be a junior after a year in which he put up 14.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks all while leading the team with 70 tackles. Another name to know is defensive lineman Gerald Turner: a former South Carolina Gamecock, so he won't be intimidated by SEC talent. 


The secondary...different story. Charleston Southern lost three safeties and a cornerback. Not ideal with the first game of the year on the road against Nick Fitzgerald. 




The Darius Hammond fellow that was the team's No. 2 rusher a year ago was also its primary kick returner, so there's a void to fill in addition to the punter spot. Kicker Tyler Tekac returns as does kickoff man David Kennedy. 




I find it highly unlikely that Charleston Southern is going to have the running back threats plugged in immediately to seriously threaten MSU's defense consistently for four quarters. That combined with the new faces in the secondary and the subtle changes bound to come with any coaching change and this should be at least a 30-point win for MSU. 


Now, that being said, this is going to be an interesting team to keep up with when it comes to strength of schedule. Most of college football is going to automatically discount any FCS team not named North Dakota State, and I understand that, but the pockets of more educated college football followers will give teams certain, albeit small, amounts of credit for facing good FCS teams. If Charleston Southern can eventually find some home-run threats at running back in time to win conference games and maybe even a playoff game or two, MSU will get a little respect out of it.



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