One year wiser and closer, Coastal seeks big season

At this time last year, Coastal Carolina fans didn’t know what to expect from their new coach and team.

Today, as the No. 21-ranked Chanticleers get ready to kick of coach Joe Moglia’s second season Saturday at South Carolina State, the expectations are justifiably high.

“Last year we did not ask anybody to automatically or blindly accept what we were suggesting,” Moglia said in Wednesday’s weekly press conference. “We felt that we had to earn the respect of our team and as well as the community.

“We began this season far ahead of where we were a year ago. Our coaching staff has a better understanding for each other, we have a better understanding of the system we have addressed the areas which we felt we were weak in the off season. … We’re optimistic about getting the season started.”

And so are fans, who saw their Chants close the 2012 season with a surprising Big South Conference championship and a first-ever playoff victory in school history. A strong finish to the 8-5 campaign and a slew of returning seniors gave good reason for high hopes this season.

“We do have a lot of seniors, but I think this is a year just like any other,” said senior offensive lineman and Carolina Forest product Drew Herring. “We’re just going to concentrate on one game after another and not really worry too much about records or setting any standards or rewriting any history. We are just going to try and do our best and go out there and make Coastal proud.”

One major change will come at quarterback, where three-year starter Aramis Hillary, who holds virtually every passing record in the CCU history books, gives way to junior Alex Ross. But the Chants have confidence in their new leader, who has been impressive in the offseason and preseason.

“Aramis was a great leader last year and did a great job coming in with the new system we implemented,” Herring said. “It was a very smooth transition. Alex has done the same thing. He has come in and he has taken the reigns.

“He started from the very beginning in winter conditioning and he was leading throughout the workouts. That was where he earned his position as our leader. This year should be a real smooth transition and if Alex does his job, he knows what to do, he is encouraging, and he is a respectable guy. Everyone respects him and listens to what he has to say when he says it.”

Improvement is a common theme among this year’s team, which dedicated itself in the offseason to coming together as a group. Once they knew what the new coaching staff’s system and what was expected of them, the Chants have a year of experience under their belts and another year of trying to get better, even All-American linebacker Quinn Backus.

“This summer I really focused on what I didn’t do right,” Backus said. “I watched film on the games that I didn’t play too well. This summer I worked every day. Not only did I work on my own game, but I worked on helping my teammates get better too. I gave advice and just tried to practice drills throughout the summer.”

The establishment of leadership – both within the team and coaching staff – has also served to bring the players closer together. They hope that year of working and learning together pays off in Moglia’s second season.

“We are all a team and as long as it is a positive story, whether it is offense or defense, it doesn’t really matter,” Backus said.

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