CCU picked to place third; six Chants on All-Big South

New coach, same expectations – at least according to Coastal Carolina’s football peers in the Big South Conference.

For the fourth-straight year, Coastal Carolina is predicted to finish third in the seven-team league, despite the fact that new head coach Joe Moglia replaces David Bennett at the helm of the Chanticleers, who received 74 total points. Bennett, who won four league titles in his nine years at Coastal, was replaced by Moglia in December.

Coastal placed six players on the All-Big South Conference Preseason Team – tight end David Duran, junior wide receiver Matt Hazel, offensive lineman Jamey Cheatwood, defensive lineman Chris Thomas, linebacker Andrae Jacobs and punt-return specialist Niccolo Mastromatteo.

The Chants were picked to finish behind defending conference champion Stony Brook and Liberty. Coastal will host both of those teams, welcoming the Seawolves Oct. 13 and the Flames Oct. 27. (Coastal will also host Ohio Valley Conference preseason #1 Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 15.)  Following Coastal in the preseason poll were Presbyterian College, Gardner-Webb, VMI and Charleston Southern.

Hazel was named second team All-Big South last season, ranking third in the league with six touchdown receptions. Hazel battled injuries, going two games without a catch, but still ranked eighth in the Big South in receiving yards per game (44.4) and 10th in receptions per game (2.9). Averaging an impressive 15.2 yards per reception, Hazel led Coastal in both receptions (32, seventh-tied on the CCU single-season list) and yards (488, sixth on the CCU single-season list) in 2011. In just two seasons, Hazel ranks third on the CCU career TD receptions list with 11. He also ranks seventh on the CCU career receiving yards list (764) and eighth on the CCU career receptions list (52).

Duran, a third team preseason All-American by The Sports Network in 2011, returns after suffering a season-ending injury this past fall. The two-time, first team All-Big South selection and 2010 All-American played parts of only four games in 2011, catching five passes for 75 yards. Duran ranks seventh on the CCU career receptions list with 58, while ranking sixth on the school’s all-time pass receiving yards list (820). Also, Duran is only two receptions shy of becoming the first tight end in Big South history with 60 career catches.

Cheatwood, a junior, is a two-time All-Big South pick. He has led an offensive line that has led the Big South in fewest sacks allowed in each of the last two seasons.

Jacobs is a two-time, first team All-Big South pick as well as the league’s 2010 Defensive Player of the Year. The senior battled injuries throughout the 2011 season but still ranked fourth on the team with 46 tackles, while tallying a team-high 10 tackles for losses. Jacobs ranks fourth on the CCU all-time list for tackles for loss with 24.5. If he matches his 2011 total of 10 TFL, he will set the CCU career mark.

Thomas earned second team All-Big South honors last season after compiling 3.5 sacks with his average of 0.35 per game ranking fourth-best total in the conference. After a slow start, he came on strong at the end of the season to bolster his all-conference honor. Thomas finished the year with 8.5 tackles for losses, including those 3.5 sacks.

Mastromatteo is a two-time All-Big South pick and enters his junior season as the Big South and Coastal Carolina all-time leader in punt returns (47) as well as the CCU all-time leader in punt return yards (379). Mastromatteo also ranks second on CCU’s career lists for kickoff returns (47) and kickoff return yards (995).

Stony Brook senior running back Miguel Maysonet and Charleston Southern redshirt-senior defensive back Charles James were voted the Big South Conference’s 2012 Preseason Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively. Liberty had a league-best eight players make the all-conference squad with Coastal and Liberty tied for second with six apiece.

The Coastal Carolina football team will report to campus on Aug. 1 and begin practice Aug. 2. The Chants will open the 2012 season by hosting North Carolina A&T on Sept. 1. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Brooks Stadium.

Photo by Todd Drexler

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