Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Charlotte 49ers
Charlotte is still very much a building program in the stages of infancy, so any expectations above and beyond being competitive would be incredibly over the top. That said, the 49ers won four games last fall, including wins over Southern Miss and Marshall, and another in CUSA play over FAU. Brad Lambert is bringing this team along nicely, and the talent is building at a solid clip. How much can this team develop in 2017?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Hasaan Klugh is back at QB, and showed a few signs of development last fall. Klugh passed for 1356 yards and tossed 10 TDs and just three picks. He added another eight scores as a runner, and became highly efficient in several ways. He now has to break through as a passer for the 49ers to move forward, but he is a work in progress.
Robert Washington showed some signs of hope as a RB last fall, as he finished second on the team in rushing with 489 yards and five scores. He averaged 5.04 yards per carry, and could be a breakthrough candidate. He will have to get passed Benny Lemay before he can breakout, however, as he entered spring ball behind Lemay on the depth chart.
TL Ford and Workpeh Kofa are both back from last season, and they caught a combined 63 passes last fall.
The line will finally consist of all upperclassmen in the starting lineup. Chris Brown (LT) is a RS junior, Wolfgang Zacherl (LG) is a RS senior, Darren Drake (C) is a junior, Nate Davis (RG) is a RS junior, and Eugene German (RT) is a RS senior. This is a huge development for this young football team.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
It's really difficult to be too concerned about much with a young, developing program. The 49ers still have a ton to grow across the board, but they are getting there, and winning three CUSA games last fall was a huge step in the right direction, especially with what was such a young offense.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
There are plenty of things to be worried about when it comes to this defense, many more than to be excited about, and that is for certain. The 49ers have holes across the board, but let's look at who is coming back.
Nick Carroll is back at DE after making 22 total tackles last fall, Karrington King is back at ILB after finishing second on the team with 73 tackles, and Ben DeLuca is back at FS after finishing with 68 tackles last fall.
That's where the decent things end.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The biggest loss was at NT, where Larry Ogunjobi was the first major defensive star for the 49ers, and he is now gone to the NFL. Charlotte will turn to Tyler Fain to try to replace him.Randy Suydem is expected to win the RDE job.
There are three openings for starters at LB, including both OLB spots. Jeff Gemmell and Tyriq Harris are in the lead for the OLB spots, and Anthony Butler is in the lead at ILB.
The secondary also needs three new starters, as both CB spots are open and the SS spot is open as well. Robert Cheatem and Marquavis Gibbs are expected to be the new CBs, while AJ McDonald is expected to win the SS job.
Arthur Hunt is back at Punter, but averaged just 39.18 yards per punt.
2017 Schedule: 9/1 Eastern Michigan, 9/9 at Kansas State, 9/16 North Carolina A&T, 9/23 Georgia State, 9/30 at FIU, 10/7 Marshall, 10/14 at Western Kentucky, 10/21 UAB, 11/4 at Old Dominion, 11/11 Middle Tennessee, 11/18 at Southern Miss, 11/25 FAU
The 49ers came a long way last season, but there is still along way to go in developing this still fairly new program. I can see Charlotte winning four games once again, but there is little room for error to get there. The big key will be how eight new starters on defense will come together in fall camp, and how much depth can be developed behind them. The team also needs Klugh to take the next logical step in his development at QB. The schedule is tough, but parts are manageable. Don't expect too much, and you could be mildly surprised.