#15 Charleston Southern FCS Football 2016 Preview

Charleston Southern Buccaneers
Overall Rank: #15
#1 Big South
Charleston Southern had a banner year in 2015. It was the first time the Buccaneers reached the playoffs and the first time the program has won an outright conference title. Heading into the playoffs, Charleston Southern only lost to FBS members Troy and Alabama. On the flip side though, the only good wins were really against The Citadel and Coastal Carolina. Thus, many figured the Buccaneers would be in trouble in the playoffs. Perhaps fortunately for CSU, they drew The Citadel again in the second round of the playoffs and beat them before giving Jacksonville State a pretty good game in the quarterfinals. 
2015 Record: 10-3, 6-0
2015 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Jamey Chadwell (28-10 at Charleston Southern, 28-10 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Gabe Giardina
Defensive Coordinator: Chad Staggs
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Darius Hammond, RB, 856 yards
Passing: Kyle Copeland, QB, 425 yards
Receiving: Kenny Dinkins, WR, 333 yards
Tackles: Solomon Brown, LB, 70
Sacks: Anthony Ellis, DL, 7.0; Solomon Brown, LB, 7.0
Interceptions: 4 tied with 1
Other Key Returnees: RB Mike Holloway, RB Ben Robinson, WR Colton Korn, OL Erik Austell, OL Jackson Williamson, LB Zane Cruz, DB Corbin Jackson, DB Troy McGowens
Key Losses: QB Austin Brown, WR Nathan Perera, OL Benny Timmons, LB Aaron Brown, DB D.J. Curl, LB Zack Johnson, DB Malcolm Jackson
Until Jacksonville State dropped 58 points on the Buccaneers in the playoffs, no FCS team scored more than 25 against Charleston Southern. Once again the defense should be the team’s strength. Johnny Robinson is back to man the middle of the three man front and Anthony Ellis recorded 7.0 sacks and 17.5 tackles-for-loss last season. Linebacker Solomon Brown will spend plenty of time in the backfield too. He also recorded 7.0 sacks last season and was the team’s second leading tackler with 70. The linebackers do need to replace Aaron Brown, which will not be easy, but Zane Cruz is ready to step up and play a bigger role. The secondary returns three starters, but do lose cornerback Malcolm Jackson. Troy McGowens is one of the best cornerbacks in the conference though and will lead the way. Safeties Corbin Jackson and D.J. Curl will help any deficiencies Charleston Southern might have replacing Jackson.
The offense has a lot of nice pieces to build around, but replacing quarterback Austin Brown is a potential issue. Brown was not the most effective or efficient quarterback around, but he ran the spread option offense very well. Kyle Copeland should step into a starting role after playing as Brown’s backup last season. In limited action, Copeland threw for 425 yards and five touchdowns in 2015. The passing game also lost Nathan Perera, who with 39 catches for 595 yards and five touchdowns, was far and away the most dangerous receiver on the team. Charleston Southern is not going to pass too much regardless, but they do need to be a threat to throw the ball in order for the running backs to get space to operate behind a talented offensive line led by Erik Austell. Darius Hammond, Mike Holloway and Ben Robinson are all very good running backs who will carry the offense this season.
The Bottom Line:
Charleston Southern is part of the first game of the season on August 27th. The Buccaneers travel to North Dakota State in what could be a very telling opening game. CSU may not win that game, but it would be beneficial to see them remain competitive. With games against Kentucky State and Florida State to follow, the NDSU contest will be the only one that will tell us much of anything about Charleston Southern. An October 1st trip to Coastal Carolina could be an interesting playoff caliber type of game as well even though the Chanticleers are currently making the transition to the FBS. As far as conference play goes, the only thing potentially stopping Charleston Southern from repeating as Big South champions is a November 12th trip to Liberty.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 215.3 (19th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 143.7 (108, 4)
Total Offense: 359.0 (72, 4)
Scoring Offense: 28.3 (49, 3)
Rushing Defense: 147.1 (39, 2)
Pass Defense: 144.9 (4, 1)
Total Defense: 292.0 (9, 1)
Scoring Defense: 21.7 (34, 5)
Turnover Margin: 0.31 (39, 2)
Sacks: 1.85 (73, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.08 (18, 2)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#15 Matthew Martin