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Charlotte 49ers: Offensive Outlook & Off-season Notes

Charlotte had a breakout year in 2019, but what will it take to build on that in 2020?

Photo Credit: Scott Clarke - ESPN

The 2019 season started slow for the 49ers, but the pieces came together sparking a late-season resurgence which have created expectations of continued success in the Queen City. Success warrants promotion and the college football coaching carousal is always spinning. This off-season the 49ers lost one of the most crucial pieces in their offensive attack, but Will Healy has chosen the route of promoting from within. As the team prepares for spring ball, we will get a better picture of what the 49ers will look like in 2020.

Offensive Outlook

The loss of offensive coordinator Alex Atkins is one that raises questions for the offense’s continued success as multiple voids must be filled in the heart of the unit. Now Florida State Offensive Line coach, Atkins called the plays and served as the o-line coach for the 49ers. Charlotte’s offense scored over 30 points per game during the best season in program history and posted the third-best offense in C-USA, averaging 421 yards per game.

The offensive line paved the way for more than 3,000 rushing yards on the season with Benny LeMay leading the team with a total of 1,072. Quarterback Chris Reynolds shined with 767 rushing yards of his own while breaking the program’s passing touchdown record with 22 on the season. Quarterbacks coach Mark Carney will now take the reigns as Offensive Coordinator. With a previously established relationship with Reynolds and a highly talented receiving corps, expect the offense to thrive through the air.

Reynolds guided the offense to over 2,500 passing yards in 2019 and was a key factor in the late-season rally with a massive jump in production in the month of November. The 49ers completed the 4-0 sweep during turkey month on their way to winning five-consecutive, where Reynolds threw for 878 yards, well above any of his other monthly totals. His dual-threat ability sparked the offense as he averaged 108 yards per game on the ground during the win streak. The 5-11 QB threw 11 interceptions in 2019 and must continue working on ball-control as more weight will fall on his shoulders in his junior season.

Marshall v Charlotte
Reynolds was ranked as the 35th best QB in college football for 2019, the highest for a returning starter in C-USA’s East division.
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Mark Carney’s path to the OC has been an interesting one, including a past experience of coaching Will Healy in his playing days at Richmond. Carney played four years of college ball as quarterback for the Fordham Rams and was most recently the Offensive Coordinator at Virginia State where he helped lead the Trojans to a 29-12 record before taking the job in Charlotte last season. While there’s an abundance of time before the season rolls around, I have been told that Carney’s scheme will be relatively similar to Atkins’.

As the spring progresses, I will have more information on the offensive outlook for 2020.

“Coach Healy and I have a long history together, and I know what a fantastic coach and person he is,” Carney said. “I’m humbled and grateful that he is entrusting me with this position and I can’t wait to continue what we began a year ago. I know our personnel and what we are capable of and I’m excited to get to work with these guys in 2020.”

A void still remains at offensive line coach, and whoever fills that role must patch the holes of three departing seniors, including NFL draft prospect Cameron Clark. The 49ers scored 52 offensive touchdowns in 2019, a 22 TD increase from Brad Lambert’s final season calling the shots. Filling the gaps on the offensive line is ultimately what will make this team go.

Notes

  • Will Healy and the 49ers staff have landed four transfer commits for the 2020 class, headlined by Derek Boykins and Tre Harbison.
  • Josiah Sa’o is a 6’2”, 285 lb, defensive tackle grad transfer from Vanderbilt, where he served as a reserve DT and a special teams participant for Derek Mason’s team. He is eligible immediately and will aid one of the defense’s biggest woes in 2019: interior run defense.
  • A second defensive tackle transfer is Charlotte native Isaac Hampton. Hampton was a 3-star prospect coming out of Mallard Creek and should have two years of eligibility remaining bearing the result of his immediate-eligibility waiver. The 296 lb DT registered 7 total tackles while playing in 4 games for Miami of Ohio in 2019, but exercised a redshirt season in the process.
  • Two players have entered the transfer portal, both of which served as reserves in 2019. Ishod Finger was the third option at running back but totaled 299 yards and 5 touchdowns in his freshman season. Finger announced his commitment to the Bryant Bulldogs in Rhode Island where he has three seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • Noah Henderson, the second to enter the transfer portal, started for the 49ers early in 2019 against Gardner-Webb where he registered 5 catches for 49 yards, the best performance of his young collegiate career. Henderson played in all 12 games for the 49ers and has since made the move to Furman, where he will join the Paladins following an 8-5 season in the FCS.
  • Punter Kyle Corbett is stepping away from the program in 2020 with an opportunity to pursue a career off the gridiron, leaving Temple transfer Connor Bowler to lead the special team’s charge. Corbett booted a program-best 69-yard punt against MTSU in 2019 while splitting the role with Bowler.

Notable Stats

  • Chris Reynolds threw 7 of his 11 interceptions in 2019 on second down but has an outstanding record on the money downs. On third and fourth down, Reynolds completed 68.6% of his passes for 8 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Clutch.
  • Victor Tucker established himself in C-USA in 2019 but has really shown out late in games. The junior wideout averaged 20.1 yards per catch in the fourth quarter for 302 yards and 4 of his 7 touchdowns on the season. Big-time players make big-time plays.

Recap & Starters Projections

Spring ball dates have yet to be announced, but as practice begins the 2020 outlook will begin to align itself. It will be interesting to see who will be making plays for Will Healy’s team in his second year. There are some talented freshmen who will make immediate impacts, meaning these predictions will continue to change before August rolls around, but nonetheless I’m already ready for some football.