The Case for Every Sun Belt East Team to Win the Division: Coastal Carolina

The most interesting coach in college football returns to his spot at the helm as Joe Moglia will guide Coastal Carolina in its first year of postseason eligibility.

Offensive coordinator Jamey Chadwell was the Chanticleer’s acting head coach last season as Moglia took a year off for medical reasons.

During the 2017 season, the pistol option produced 156.3 rushing yards and and 345.3 total yards per game last year.Those numbers ranked fifth and ninth in the Sun Belt.

Five different quarterbacks saw the field and the running back rotation went four-deep. The starting quarterback and leading tailback both graduate but the attrition won’t hit as hard thanks to playing time being spread deeply down the depth chart.

This year’s starting quarterback Kilton Anderson had 817 yards and two touchdowns with five interceptions as a freshman in 2015 and 743 yards last season with seven touchdowns and three interceptions.

His career completion percentage currently sits under 50 percent but now that he has the reigns full-time, granted health, he should be able to settle into a spot that has dealt with its fair share of turmoil the past few years.

Coastal will also have plenty of experience on the outside as four of last year’s five primary targets return including leading receiver Malcolm Williams.

Williams was sixth in the Sun Belt with 43 receptions and his 18.44 yards per catch were second only to teammate Chris Jones.

With Jones gone, receivers Ky’jon Tyler and Omar Black are more than ready to fill in. Tyler and Black are solid short/intermediate options that compliment Williams well.

Coastal’s third-place all-time leading rusher Osharmar Abercrombie graduated, leaving in his place the duo of Marcus Outlow and Alex James.The two had 279 and 274 yards respectively, combining for five rushing touchdowns.

Rising sophomore Jacquez Hairston will provide an extra burst as a third option, as well. In two trips to Arkansas against the Red Wolves and Razorbacks, Hairston combined for 87 yards on just 14 carries.

Last season the Chants had just 26 returning offensive line starts heading into the season but are much better off this year. Only one starter graduated from 2017 and Coastal gains the services of Michigan transfer Sean Fitzgerald.

Last season, Coastal was eighth in total defense but were only better than the Louisiana schools in scoring defense.

The Chants forced just 11 turnovers last season, resulting in a -7 turnover margin. On the plus side, the two players responsible for Coastal’s five interceptions are back in Fitz Wattley and Preston Carey.

Carey is one of the Sun Belt’s top corners and his partner-in-crime Anthony Chesley is back as well. The secondary was the defense’s strong point last year and should be better in 2018.

In the middle, Coastal has a young star at linebacker in Silas Kelly. Last season, no Sun Belt freshman had more tackles than Kelly’s 75.

Kelly has quickly become the anchor of the unit with the other two top linebackers, Kerron Johnson and Shane Johnson, gone to graduation.

The defensive line lost three starters but experience runs deep among the group. Defensive tackles C.J. Brewer and Ja’ree Tolbert had 66 tackles together last season and form a stout inside unit.

Sophomore Jeffrey Gunter will be stepping into the starting defensive end role after having 26 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss last year.

The front seven as a whole loses a lot but has the tools to reload. Rush defense numbers likely won’t see much improvement but there also shouldn’t be any dropoff.

With a better secondary, the defense will be able to key in on the run and limit teams after giving up 28 rushing touchdowns last year.

Best Case

The Chants face South Carolina, UAB, Campbell and an improved UMASS squad in non-conference play. Coastal must play the Sun Belt’s big three and the only conference opponent it avoids is Texas State. With only minimal team-wide improvement expected, a division title isn’t quite within reach this year. 5-7, 3-5

Worst Case

As we saw in last year’s Western Illinois game, no contest is a given for Coastal. If Anderson doesn’t play well enough, the weapons around him will be mitigated. Without a reliable offense, Coastal can’t afford to rely on its defense in an explosive league. 2-10, 1-7

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