Chants open football drills with transition year ahead

ccufoot-practiceThe Coastal Carolina football program officially opened the 2016 season with the first of its 26 scheduled practices before opening the season on Sept. 3 at Lamar.

With a transition season from the Big South to the Sun Belt conferences, the Chants certainly didn’t open practice like a team with little to play for.

“I want to make this very clear, we are not looking past the 2016 season,” said fifth year head coach Joe Moglia. “This year will be an important year for us and we will take it very seriously. We have a great senior class that deserves to close their careers in an appropriate way this year. Everyone wants to do a great job for them. I cannot think of a better reason to have the best season possible in order to prepare for our move to the Sun Belt and, as of right now, we have a chance to have the best season in school history.

“As I have said over and over, we have one mission and that is to put a team on the field all of Coastal Carolina will be proud of. That will not change this season. We have never talked about winning championships in the past. That will also be the case this year and in the future. That will not change. We have asked our players to give 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. That will not change. We will not do anything different this season we have done in the past. That goes for our philosophy on redshirting players – if a player can help us this year, he will play.”

The only thing different Coastal will be doing this preseason is there are no two-a-day practices on the schedule.

“We are a veteran staff and a pretty veteran group of players. We feel comfortable doing this and, as you know, we are not averse to doing thigs differently if we believe it will give us a competitive advantage.”

Coastal does have eight starters returning on offense, including preseason All-Americans De’Angelo Henderson at running back and Sam Ekwonike at guard. Also back are all-conference performers Chase Tidwell (right tackle), Voghens Larrieux (left tackle), Bruce Mapp (receiver) and Chris Jones (receiver) along with centers Dom Digalbo and Jamarion McBride and tight end A.J. Sattinger.

Coastal will have a strong battle to replace quarterback Alex Ross, one of the most productive players in NCAA FCS history. Sophomore Josh Stilley and redshirt freshman Chance Thrasher will open preseason as the favorites to lead the Chanticleer offense. The Chants will also need to replace left guard Daniel Anousheh and receiver Tyrell Blanks.

On defense, new coordinator Mickey Matthews will implement a 4-3 scheme. While there will be a mixed bag of returning players and newcomers, the group is enthusiastic about the season’s prospects. The defensive line returns six of its top 10 tacklers from last year, including leaders Alex Scearce (linebacker) and Jabarai Bothwell (defensive tackle), while Richie Sampson returns from a redshirt season to solidify the secondary. Sampson, who sat out last season, ranks ninth on the CCU all-time list with 113 unassisted tackles. Also back are cornerback Kamron Summers while starters C.J. Thompson and Kerron Johnson will move to new positions in the new defensive alignment.

The one group that returns completely intact is the special teams, including placekicker Ryan Granger, kickoff specialist Masamitsu Ishibashi, holder Tyler Keans, long snapper Connor Kubala, punter Evan Rabon, All-American kick returner Devin Brown and punt returner Chris Jones.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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