2019 Conference USA QB Preview: Charlotte
Many people in the college football world have referred to the Charlotte football program as a “sleeping giant”. This is largely due to the fact that the school is in a great city, and has talented high school football players close by to recruit. The 2019 season will be Charlottes 5th year in Conference USA and 5th year playing at the FBS ranks. Prior to the 2015 season, Charlotte played an FCS independent schedule with their football program getting started back up in 2013. With that said, they are still a new program and have been developing their football program as a whole. Last year was their best FBS record as they went 5-7 and took a big step in the right direction. As more success comes for Charlotte, more tradition and recognition will come with that. They have hired Will Healy this offseason to be the new head coach of the program, and the way he turned around the Austin Peay football program has many Charlotte fans excited about what he could potentially do for the 49ers.
In the 49er’s four years of playing in Conference USA, they have yet to have a quarterback solidified as “they guy”. In those four seasons, the 49ers have had 7 quarterbacks with at least 94 attempts or more. Hasaan Klugh, who is out of eligibility, has had the majority of playing time under center for the 49er’s as he ended his career with 3,242 yards passing, over 1,000 yards rushing and 41 total touchdowns. He was the main starter for two of those seasons and his last season with the 49ers was in a back-up role and started the final two games of 2018. One of Healy’s main goals will be finding a quarterback that the Charlotte football program can build around. The quarterback competition looks to mainly be between Chris Reynolds, Evan Shirreffs, and Brett Kean. We will take a deeper look at each one here shortly. If Healy and the 49ers coaching staff can get solid quarterback play from one of those three this year, that would go a long way in helping Charlotte take the next step as a football program and showing the rest of Conference USA that they were in fact a “sleeping giant”.
2018 QB Performance
- Reynolds, Shirreffs, and Klugh combined for 2,154 passing yards, 10 passing touchdowns, 8 interceptions, and a 60% completion percentage.
- Reynolds started the first 6 games before getting hurt in the 6th game against Western Kentucky. That injury sidelined him the rest of the year.
- Reynolds threw for over 200 yards in four of those six games and was on his way to pass for over 200 yards again against WKU before the injury. Reynolds finished with 1,181 yards passing, 7 total touchdowns, 65.2CMP% and only 2 interceptions in basically 5 and a half games.
- Shirreffs had 631 yards passing, 4 total touchdowns, 51.9CMP%, and 4 interceptions in his four starts and WKU appearance.
- Klugh led the 49ers to a win against FAU the last game of the year. Klugh started against FIU and FAU the last two games of the season.
- In conference, the 49ers were 13th out of 14 in total passing yards and 12th out 14 in passing yards per game.
2019 QB Preview
The 2019 season is a new chapter for the 49ers program. As mentioned earlier, new head coach Will Healy will be looking for a quarterback that can lead them while they are transitioning into this new chapter in hopes of becoming bowl eligible for the first time in program history. With Hasaan Klugh out of eligibility, it appears the competition will come down between returning starter Chris Reynolds, Evan Shirreffs, and South Florida transfer Brett Kean. Charlotte has other quarterbacks on the roster, but for right now they seem to be in a position to provide depth, at least for now. While every coach would like to know for certain who their starting quarterback is going to be, this competition looks to be one that will extend deep into fall camp, if not into the first game against Gardner-Webb on August 31st. They will give Kean the opportunity to compete for the job and will want to ensure he has time to get the playbook down and put his best foot forward in the competition as he is transferring in. Regardless who wins the job, the depth at the quarterback position will provide experience for the 49ers heading into 2019. I like what Reynolds brings to the table, he did some good things last year and was improving each game until the ankle injury put him on the sideline the second half of the season. Reynolds will look to build on that and reclaim the starting position, but Kean did not transfer to sit on the bench and Shirreffs, who transferred from Miami last year, will also want to prove that he has taken the next step as a quarterback.
Reynolds will be a Redshirt Sophomore going into the 2019 season and even though he only played in half the season last year, that playing time was beyond valuable. Reynolds did a good job taking care of the football last year as he only had 2 interceptions in his 155 passing attempts. With a stud at running back like the 49ers have, if you don’t turn the ball over, you have a fighting shot. Reynolds was accurate and efficient with the ball, if you take out the App State game, his completion percentage was between 63 and 69 in the remaining 5 ball games. Overall, Reynolds just found a way to get the job done and he has some edginess and toughness to him that is an attractive feature to have as a quarterback. He is an above average athlete, who can move around in the pocket and make some plays with his legs when he has to. I think Reynolds ends up getting the starting nod under center, but even if he doesn’t, he will be ready when his number is called. Below is a clip of Reynolds throwing on the run out of the pocket.
Shirreffs transferred from Miami last year in hopes of becoming the starting quarterback for Charlotte. He opened up the season as the back-up, but ended up starting four games for the 49ers once Reynolds went down with an injury. While he showed potential as a quarterback and demonstrated a strong arm, he only threw over 200 yards once in his four starts and failed to throw for over 100 yards in two of those starts. His completion percentage hovered around the 50sh range. Shirreffs had 4 total touchdowns along with 4 interceptions. While he did struggle under center last year, he still got valuable experience and is heading into fall camp with hopes of taking the starting job. He has potential and adds valuable depth, regardless if he ends up getting the starting job or not. Below is a clip of Shirreffs throwing a touchdown on a corner route.
Kean has served as a back-up at South Florida the past several years. He was a three star recruit out of high school. Kean has played sparingly over the past few seasons as he has had a total of 71 passing attempts. He has three career touchdowns and 333 career passing yards. While his playing time has been limited, he has served as the back-up to some quality quarterbacks and has had an opportunity to learn. He is a good athlete who certainly did not transfer to Charlotte to be the back-up. I don’t know if he will end up becoming the starter or a back-up, but look for him to make a big push to take the starting job and get his opportunity at some point this season. Below is a clip of one of Kean’s touchdown passes at South Florida.
One of the good things about a new coaching staff is everybody gets a fresh start and a blank slate. Each quarterback is learning how the new coaching staff wants things done and each quarterback is learning how to adjust to the new coaching staff. At the same time, the coaching staff is adjusting to their players as well. I expect this quarterback competition will be extremely close. It wouldn’t surprise me to see two guys play the opening game. Regardless who ends up winning this competition, the back-up will be close behind, pushing the starter to continue to improve his overall game.