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2017 Fun Belt Recap: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

Without its head coach, the Chants went 1-5 in one-possession games in 2017.

NCAA Football: Coastal Carolina at Arkansas
It was an up-and-down first season in the FBS for this young program.
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Our series rolls on (check out Texas State and Georgia Southern) as we’re recapping each team’s season in the Sun Belt. Next up is the conference’s newest member that dealt with a bunch of adversity in its first year in the FBS. Although it was ugly most of the season, there are many things to build on after the Chants first season with the big boys.


NCAA Football: Coastal Carolina at Arkansas
In a surprise move, offensive coordinator Jamey Chadwell was named the interim head coach for the 2017 season.
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Come August, numerous people were buzzing as Coastal was just a few weeks away from making their FBS debut and the media could not wait to hear from head coach Joe Moglia. The former TD Ameritrade CEO is wonderful behind the microphone but he mysteriously had to miss Media Day due to a sickness. Turns out that illness was some lung inflammation and the most successful head coach in program history would have to sit out the 2017 season.

New offensive coordinator Jamey Chadwell, who took the job after an excellent tenure as the head coach at FCS Charleston Southern, would step in this season for Moglia. The Chanticleers were in good hands, but they had a rough year ahead.

The coaches called for Coastal Carolina to finish in dead last while the UDD panel had the Chants finishing 11th just ahead of Texas State.

Not much was expected from the newest FBS member.

The Season

The Chants got off to a very fast start as they boat raced UMass in their home opener as Osharmar Abercrombie recorded 149 yards on 17 carries. Things would immediately get rocky after that big home win as the Chants could not find a quarterback as they would lose nine consecutive games, including an embarrassing home loss to FCS Western Illinois.

For the year, this offense only put up 23.7 points per game as they struggled to find answers at this sport’s most important position. Five different players would receive snaps behind center and junior Kilton Anderson would end the season as the starter. For the season, this group combined to throw 18 touchdowns but as a team they barely completed half of their attempts.

In the backfield, the Chants had four backs that averaged at least 4.6 yards per carry and they combined to run for 12 scores. Leading rusher Osharmar Abercrombie will be leaving, but Alex James and Marcus Outlow should be a nice duo.

NCAA Football: Coastal Carolina at Arkansas
Malcolm Williams gave a ton of secondaries nightmares in 2017.
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Where the real difference makers for this offense were was at receiver as junior Malcolm Williams emerged as one of the Sun Belt’s best wideouts this fall. The Louisiana native was an excellent big play threat as he put up 18.4 yards per catch with seven touchdowns on 43 grabs. Both him and senior Chris Jones were the top two in yards per reception in the conference so creating big passing plays wasn’t a problem for the offense.

The defensive side of the football is where the Chants had their biggest struggle this season as they were ranked 107th in defense per S&P+. Opponents averaged 34 points per game against Coastal this season. After the first season in the FBS, second-year defensive coordinator Mickey Matthews called it quits and former Nebraska defensive back Marvin Sanders will run the defense in Conway.

There is some intriguing young talent returning as three of last year’s top 10 tacklers were freshmen. Fitz Wattley was one of the most productive safeties in the league this fall (82 tackles, three interceptions) and will be back for his senior year in 2018. Linebacker Silas Kelly was very impressive as a rookie and could be a future star in the middle of this defense.

Biggest Surprise

Going into the season we knew it was going to be quite a struggle for this offense to move the ball through the air. The Chants were starting a new offensive scheme, had a new quarterback, and not much experience returning at receiver. So the pass game had a tall mountain to climb.

As expected, this passing game did struggle as S&P+ had them 86th in passing this season. This made since as there was a revolving door at quarterback. However, no one saw the big plays coming from the passing attack and that’s what this offense did best.

For the season, the Chanticleers had 24 passing plays that covered at least 25 yards. That’s not a ton, but when you realize Coastal Carolina was only attempting 25.3 passing attempts per game and that is a high volume. Malcolm Williams was outstanding, but senior Chris Jones also made some really big plays as he averaged over 20 yards per catch.

The offense wasn’t good most of the season but they consistently were able to find big plays in the passing game.

Biggest Disappointment

We all knew the Chants were going to be at a talent disadvantage in their first season in the FBS as they simply hadn’t been playing with 85 scholarships like the rest of the members in the Sun Belt. We knew it was going to be very vital for this squad to win the turnover battle.

For the season, Coastal finished with a negative-seven turnover margin and this was good for 11th place in the conference. The offense did an okay job of protecting the football, but coming away with takeaways was a huge issue.

For the season, the Chanticleers only produced 11 turnovers on the season. That was good for 11th in the conference and really did not give this team much of a chance to get victories. In a season filled with close calls, the inability to come away with extra possessions likely took multiple wins off the table.

Moving Forward

Coastal Carolina v South Carolina
Getting Moglia back on the sidelines should make an immediate impact for Coastal Carolina next fall.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It was a really tough first season in the FBS for this program as the Chants went on a nine-game losing streak that lasted for two months. However, they were able to bounce back at the end to pick up two huge conference victories to give them some positive momentum heading into next fall.

They’ve made some changes to the defensive staff, but getting head coach Joe Moglia to return to the sideline should help immensely as then Jamey Chadwell can focus on running the offense. After taking their lumps, there is some talent returning on each side of the ball and Coastal Carolina will look to win some of those close games in 2018.