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June 10, 2011
Do Chants have a chance?
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
2011 Record: 6-6
Q&A with Ryan Young, Coastal Carolina beat writer with the Myrtle Beach Sun/News
Q - How is the quarterback battle expected to shake out?
A - "It is, obviously, the most critical question the Chants have to answer before the season starts, and it's one that could linger well into August. Entering spring practice, rising junior Aramis Hillary -- a South Carolina transfer who saw limited back-up duty last season -- was considered the front-runner for the position. But rising senior Jamie Childers was also given a shot to compete for the job, and by the end of the spring game there was little to no separation between the two -- at least according to the coaches.
Childers is an interesting option there. He started his collegiate career as a quarterback, backing up Zach MacDowall for two seasons, but the coaches felt his athleticism was being wasted in that role. So they turned him into a tight end last season, and he showed flashes of potential there. Such that the Chants would still plan to rotate him in at tight end occasionally even if he does win the quarterback job. He has the stronger arm of the two and is also a capable dual-threat option. Hillary, on the other hand, boasts a better pocket presence under pressure.
My guess is they both get an opportunity at some point, though I'd give the slight nod to Hillary. I know the coaches want to be able to use feature Childers at tight end and as a slot receiver at times, and I'm guessing they think they have their best 11 players on the field when those two are both out there."
Q - What are some of the biggest challenges facing Coastal Carolina as the program continues to grow?
A - "The Chants' biggest challenge the last few years has been trying to live up to the expectations the program created with its early success. Coach David Bennett's program overachieved in its second, third and fourth seasons with three straight Big South championships and at least nine wins a year.
Those teams featured future NFL players Tyler Thigpen, Mike Tolbert, Quinton Teal and Jerome Simpson. I guess you could say Coastal still needs to prove it can do it without those guys. Last year's team was talented as it proved down the stretch of the season while pushing its way into the FCS playoffs, but also inconsistent as it proved by losing to underwhelming Towson team and getting off to poor starts in its other losses.
The program hasn't had a winning end-of-season record the last four years, so there is still plenty to prove. The Chants' second-half run last year was a start, but only if they build on that momentum this season."
Q - Coaches I see are very high on incoming freshman De'Angelo Henderson. What kind of impact do you see him making?
A - "The opportunity is there for him to play and contribute as a freshman, and yes, the coaches are very high on him. They weren't planning to bring in a running back in this recruiting class and they fully expected either South Carolina or Clemson to scoop up Henderson, but when he was still available late in the process, they decided they couldn't pass on his potential. Eric O'Neal was the Chants' lead running back last season as a senior, so there are a lot of carries to reallocate.
And while O'Neal had the vast majority of the carries last season, Coastal prefers a running back-by-committee approach. So I would think Henderson will find himself in that mix along with junior Marcus Whitener, junior Jeremy Height and sophomore Aaron Jones. My guess is he gets eased into the offense, but I would expect a recruit of his stature will get his chance to show what he can do -- sooner rather than later."
Q - Who are some other players that the Bulldogs will need to keep its collective eyes on?
A - "Rising junior Andrae Jacobs was the Big South defensive player of the year as a redshirt-sophomore and first-year starter last season. He is an impact player who had a standout game at West Virginia last year, proving he can compete against FBS-level teams. He has a feel for sniffing out plays and sticking ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage. ... Senior tight end David Duran is an FBS-caliber talent. He started at Michigan State before transferring to Coastal in search of more playing time. He's excelled since arriving at CCU, earning first-team all-Big South honors the last two seasons. His stats aren't gaudy because Coastal spreads the football around so much in the passing game, but they easily could be. He's 6-foot-5, runs well and catches everything. ...
Senior cornerback Josh Norman had a breakout sophomore season two years ago, breaking the conference record with eight interceptions. He wasn't quite the same ballhawk last year, but his reputation remains.
Q - Last but not least, for those are who are not familiar, explain what a Chanticleer is and is Russ, Georgia's interim mascot in any kind of sideline danger?
A - "The Chanticleer is a mythical rooster taken from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales that is known for his cunning, but I trust Russ can handle himself."