The 49ers’ offense has been putting up video game-like numbers through four games, excluding their matchup with the defending champion Clemson Tigers. Charlotte is averaging 38 points and 445 yards per game, a night-and-day difference from 21.7 points and 339 yards per game in 2018 under Brad Lambert. Last year this team relied heavily on their defense to keep them in the game, but this season they are blowing games wide open.
The offense has been making the most of their trips into enemy territory, scoring on 12 of their 14 redzone possessions. Jonathon Cruz has only attempted 2 field goals this season, but that is stemming from the offense getting the job done.
I didn’t foresee this group putting up such eye-popping numbers through spring ball and summer camp, but Will Healy’s unit has shown they can put up points on anyone in the country. Don’t be fooled by the names you see in the newspapers and on highlight tapes – it all starts upfront in the trenches.
Offensive Line: The most crucial part of the offense’s success. Jaelin Fisher, D’Mitri Emmanual, and Cameron Clark have all had big starts to the 2019 season.
D’Mitri Emmanual was named 49ers offensive player of the week following the 52-17 blowout win over UMass where the offense exploded for 338 rushing yards and three scores. Cameron Clark was included on the C-USA team of the week following their week four matchup with Clemson.
First second quarter drive begins with this 16-yard scamper by Benny LeMay. pic.twitter.com/RB8rbmnrnM— Charlotte Football (@CharlotteFTBL) September 22, 2019
Getting a push up front hasn’t been a problem for the 49ers, as more than 86% of their carries are going for positive yardage, ranking 18th in the nation. Pass blocking has been middle of the pack, giving up sacks on 6.9% of their plays, ranking 86th in the country according to Football Outsiders.
Quarterback: Chris Reynolds took over for USF transfer Brett Kean midway through the first quarter against Gardner-Webb and has been leading the offense since. Reynolds has completed 63% of his passes for 630 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. A rough outing against Clemson caused a dip in his numbers, finishing with just 43 yards and an interception in the loss.
The 5’11” signal-caller has displayed the ability to put the ball where it needs to be while limiting turnovers, and that is exactly what the 49ers need in their offensive scheme. The ability to scramble - whether that be escaping the pocket on a broken play or a designed QB run - has become a staple in Will Healy’s offense.
Being a fierce competitor and a natural leader, Reynolds has been the spark this unit needs. With this being his redshirt sophomore season, Chris has the chance to be the face of this program for years to come.
Running Backs: Benny LeMay – the best running back in C-USA. LeMay brings the same passion and chip on his shoulder every week, and with that, he has become the main focus of opposing teams gameplan. The offensive line has paved the way for LeMay, who has carried for 100+ yards in three of the four games this season, falling just short against the top-ranked Clemson Tigers with 81 yards.
A BIG hole opened up by the O-Line sends Benny to the HOUSE! pic.twitter.com/1spBfVGLzd— Charlotte Football (@CharlotteFTBL) September 7, 2019
Aaron McAllister and Ishod Finger have proven to be formidable subs for LeMay, both scoring touchdowns of their own on this season. Finger has multiple 50+ yard carries and scored the first two touchdowns of his young collegiate career against UMass in week three.
The only facet of the running backs game that could improve would be catching out of the backfield. LeMay and McAllister do extremely well picking up the blitz and in the screen game.
Receivers: This unit has looked like a group of veterans through four weeks, led by a plethora of underclassmen studs. Victor Tucker is proving to be the All-C-USA level wideout we thought he would be, and freshman Micaleous Elder has been putting the conference on notice with his speed and agility.
Cameron Dollar and Noah Henderson have made big play after big play, especially on third downs for the offense.
Watch Reynolds find Dollar for the opening touchdown of the game!— Charlotte Football (@CharlotteFTBL) September 14, 2019
: https://t.co/AXVjvJfCMl#GOLDstandard pic.twitter.com/diTgA11MBN
Will Healy has emphasized receivers blocking for screens and run plays, but he is impressed with the hustle and grit the wideouts display. Remember, this unit is without their original #2 receiver Rico Arnold for the season as he recovers from a foot injury sustained in the spring. The entire receiving corps will return next season barring any transfers, as Tyler Ringwood is the oldest player in the bunch in his junior year.
The Charlotte offense lacks a receiving-tight end, with Jacob Hunt being the only TE with a reception to this point in the season. The tight ends are used primarily for blocking, and they do a solid job being the sixth offensive linemen opening holes for the running backs.
Converting on third and fourth downs are crucial to keeping drives alive, and this is something the 49ers will need to improve on as the season progresses. Charlotte has converted 17 of their 46 third-down attempts, sitting right at 37%. Will Healy has elected to go for it on fourth down six times on the year, converting only twice. I would like to see some trick plays from this offense, and with the way they have been lighting up opposing defenses, I believe it would take them to the next level.
Charlotte started the season 2-2, with losses coming at Appalachian State and at #1 Clemson, but Will Healy’s group gets a chance to hit the reset button with C-USA play just days away. FAU is looking for revenge as Jonathon Cruz crushed their bowl eligibility chances last season with a 56-yard field goal with no time remaining. Former 49er defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer is now a part of the Owl’s staff under Lane Kiffin, and he has the FAU defense playing hard coming off of back to back victories.
This is a huge matchup, and if the 49ers can pull this out, they will be serious contenders to win the C-USA East division crown. Not a bad start for a team who was picked to finish last in the conference.