CHARLESTON, S.C. (CSU) - There's a new look to Charleston Southern Football in 2013. Jamey Chadwell took over as the third head coach in program history last January, and leads the Bucs into their 23rd season on the gridiron with great enthusiasm.
Although young, Chadwell arrives at CSU having already experienced success at the helm of a program. Following a five-year run as a Charleston Southern assistant under Jay Mills, Chadwell compiled a 25-21 record over four seasons as head coach at North Greenville and Delta State. While at North Greenville, Chadwell led a perennially struggling team to an 11-3 record and a NCAA Division II Quarterfinal Playoff appearance in 2011.
Chadwell inherits a Charleston Southern team that was much improved in 2012. The Bucs took a step forward with a 5-6 campaign, matching Villanova for the best win-turnaround in FCS College Football. The focus for Chadwell and the Bucs in fall camp has been simple.
"We're focused right now on our team and getting better," Chadwell said. "We're not too worried about anything else right now. We tried to set an intensity level from the get-go. We want to be physical and establish the mindset of being a physical team. I've been pleased with our progress in that respect."
Not only does CSU have a new head coach. The Bucs also have new Nike uniforms showing off the CSU blue and gold, and they hope to make their mark in them as the program kicks off a new era in 2013.
For the first time since the 2006 season, CSU does not have an FBS foe on its schedule. The Bucs will play 12 games for the first time in program history, though, and also square off against an Appalachian State team that is destined for the FBS Sun Belt Conference in 2014.
Charleston Southern opens the season at The Citadel for a second straight season, and will look to avenge last year's defeat. The Bucs led the Bulldogs late in the first half and went into the halftime locker room tied, but saw The Citadel pull away in the second half.
The 2013 home opener comes the following week, as CSU hosts a Shorter squad that gave it all it could handle in a narrow 23-20 road win last year.
CSU then has to wait four weeks to return home, as it embarks on a three-game road trip to Campbell, Norfolk State, and Appalachian State. Campbell is in its second year of football in the non-scholarship FCS Pioneer League, while Norfolk State of the MEAC is looking to return to the form that saw it capture a conference title in 2011.
Appalachian State is likely the most talented team the Bucs will compete against in 2013, as the Mountaineers have been a perennial national power at the FCS level and are armed with a full FBS allotment of 85 scholarships as they make the transition this year.
Two more contests round out the Bucs' out of conference slate on October 5 and October 26. Chadwell leads CSU against his former school, North Greenville, in the second home game of the season. Later on, the Bucs end the month of October by hosting a first-year Charlotte program that is ticketed for FBS Conference USA in three years.
As always, the Big South slate figures to be competitive and generate interest among the local fan base. The Bucs kick off conference play on October 12 at VMI, and also make trips to Presbyterian and Gardner-Webb. CSU beat all three of those opponents at home last year en route to a 3-3 league mark.
The top two teams in the Big South preseason poll make the trip to Charleston in 2013. CSU plays host to rival Coastal Carolina on November 9, and wraps up the season with a matchup against Turner Gill-led Liberty.
As a former college quarterback at East Tennessee State, Chadwell figures to put his imprint on the Bucs' offense. CSU will transition to a spread option attack that will heavily feature the shotgun. The Bucs had some success with several versions of the option last season, and Chadwell is excited to see how senior quarterback Malcolm Dixon will handle the new offense.
"Malcolm has a lot of experience but it has come in a lot of different offenses," Chadwell said. "He's had a really good summer and has taken control to try to be a leader on the field, which is what we really challenged him to do. He's had a good early camp as far as making some good strides in our offense."
Dixon enters his senior year with a chance to leave his name all over the Charleston Southern offensive record book. He is fifth all-time in total offense at CSU with 3,104 yards, and also ranks fifth in passing yardage and ninth in rushing.
There is a healthy battle for the backup quarterback spot, as sophomore Briar Van Brunt and freshmen Danny Croghan III and Kyle Copeland - an Air Force Prep transfer - are all in competition.
Leading the way at running back is senior Teddy Allen, a selection to the Big South's Preseason All-Conference Team. Allen tallied 576 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in 2012, and begins the year eighth on the school's all-time rushing list. Chadwell and the CSU staff are optimistic that a trimmed down Allen could even better in his final campaign.
"Teddy Allen lost almost 30 pounds since the spring," Chadwell said. "He was about 235 then and is down to 206 now so we're hoping he can get back to what he was as an all-conference level performer. We're really pleased with him."
Having several viable options at running back is crucial to the success of an option offense, and the Bucs are confident in their depth at the spot.
"Our young guys have really impressed us in camp," Chadwell said. "Ben Robinson and Michael Holloway, two freshmen, have come in and given us speed that we didn't have in the spring. Zac Frazier's been good, as has Christian Reyes, so I think we're going to have a good stable of running backs with some depth. I feel a lot better about our depth there than we did in the spring."
CSU lost a good deal of experience at wide receiver due to the graduation of Mike Davis, Chase Jones and Corvaughn Archie. The Bucs are excited, however, about the return of redshirt junior Nathan Perera, a 2011 All-Conference selection who was limited to three games due to injury last season. At 6-3, Perera is a big target who can go across the middle and make big plays down the field. He averaged 16.5 yards per catch on 43 receptions in 2011.
Outside of Perera and junior Kevin Glears, the Bucs will be relying on some new faces in the passing game.
"Donte Sumpter, a transfer from East Carolina, has a lot of ability," said Chadwell of one of the newcomers. "Chris Jenkins, a transfer from Georgia State, does as well. They're trying to figure out what's going on right now but they have the potential to contribute."
Much like the receiving corps, CSU's offensive line will likely feature some new faces this season. Junior Clayton Truitt highlights a group of four returning starters, but all are fighting to keep those starting spots.
"We have some freshmen that are really pushing for playing time and come into camp with the desire to play and have really pushed our veteran players to become better," Chadwell said.
At tight end, Nathan Prater is a capable blocker and a big target as a pass catcher at 6-8. Kirby Broome adds depth there as he makes the move inside from wide receiver.
The Bucs ranked third in the nation in pass defense last season, and are enthused about the potential of the secondary once again in 2013.
Seniors Elijah Lee, Demaris Freeman and Matt Hardy lead the way. Lee, a junior college transfer from New Jersey, was selected to the preseason all-conference team after leading the Bucs with 70 tackles last year. Freeman and Hardy, meanwhile, are both experienced safeties who enjoy coming up and tackling.
"Our secondary has really surprised me because two of the guys playing in fall camp weren't with us in the spring in Elijah Lee and Damian Dixon and they're pretty good," Chadwell said. "They're doing a lot of good things. Demaris Freeman, Matt Hardy and Corbin Jackson are the safeties and we're really solid there as well. Malcolm Jackson's also playing corner and we have a graduate student transfer, David King from UConn, that gives us some depth. I'm really pleased with where we are in our secondary."
Seniors Calvin Bryant and Adam Witzmann should be expected to lead a linebacker corps which is hoping to find strength in numbers with several newcomers. Zack Johnson is also a key returner, as he finished second on the team with 55 tackles a year ago.
With a 6-5, 253 pound frame and speed to boot, senior defensive end Will Hunt looks to continue his success as one of the top pass rushers in the Big South. Hunt has started 28 games over his first three years as a Buc, and last year posted 28 tackles, three for loss, two sacks, five quarterback hits and a forced fumble.
First-year defensive coordinator Chad Staggs and company are also expecting big things from junior James Smith as the nose tackle in the Bucs' new 3-4 look. Smith has been a consistent contributor during his first two seasons, and the strongest player on CSU's roster looks to have taken it to another level in fall camp.
"Our defensive line has played really well in fall camp," Chadwell said. "We're getting some good leadership out of James Smith and Will Hunt and Dylan Black. Skyler Skersick is a guy we didn't know about from the spring because he was hurt and he looks like he's going to be pretty good there."
The Bucs return both their punter and place kicker from last season in Cameron Mitchell and Mark Deboy.
Mitchell was solid as CSU's main punter last season, averaging 37.1 yards a punt while placing nine inside the 20-yard line. He has been pushed in camp, however, by freshman Truett Burns. Deboy remains the frontrunner to handle the Bucs placekicking duties, but Chadwell and first-year special teams coach Josh Miller would like to see better consistency.
CSU will have to replace the dynamic Charles James in the punt return game, and junior Nathan Perera seems ready to fill that role. Speedster Kevin Glears returns as the main kickoff return man, and possesses game-breaking speed. He averaged almost 22 yards a return as a freshman in 2011, and posted a 15.8 average last year.