#16 Charleston Southern FCS Football 2017 Preview

Charleston Southern Buccaneers
Overall Rank: #16
#1 Big South
Charleston Southern kicked off the 2016 season in style with an early game at North Dakota State. The Buccaneers lost, but they took the Bison to overtime and that set them up for success in the Big South. CSU was upset by Gardner-Webb, but their 48-26 win at Liberty gave them the tiebreaker for the automatic bid for the playoffs. They lost at Wofford in the first round 15-14, but this group has the tools to win the Big South for a third straight season. However, they will have to do it without Coach Jamey Chadwell, who took the offensive coordinator position at Coastal Carolina. Former quarterbacks coach Mark Tucker has taken over the lead job.
2016 Record: 7-4, 4-1
2016 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Mark Tucker (0-0 at Charleston Southern, 0-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mark Tucker
Defensive Coordinator: Zane Vance
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Shane Bucenell, QB, 325 yards
Passing: Shane Bucenell, QB, 1,100 yards
Receiving: Kameron Brown, WR, 540 yards
Tackles: Solomon Brown, LB, 70
Sacks: Anthony Ellis, DL, 7.0
Interceptions: Shadarius Hopkins, DB, 2
Other Key Returnees: OL Frank Cirone, LB Zane Cruz, DL Mike Taylor
Key Losses: RB Mike Holloway, RB Darius Hammond, WR Jared Scotland, OL Erik Austell, DB Troy McGowens, DB Corbin Jackson, DB D.J. Curl
The offense has some work to do without Mike Holloway and Darius Hammond leading their ground attack. Holloway rushed for 881 yards and nine scores during his senior season, while Hammond added 576 yards and four scores. CSU will still want to run the ball up the gut of the opposing defense, but Coach Tucker needs to find a couple players who can be effective in that role. There are fewer questions in the passing game thanks to the return of Shane Bucenell. As a freshman last season he threw for 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Bucenell also added 325 yards and four scores on the ground. Kameron Brown will again be his favorite target after catching 27 passes for 540 yards and six touchdowns. Charleston Southern is not going to be a team that throws the ball around too much, so Bucenell’s passing efficiency could take a big hit if the ground game takes a big step back.
In the meantime, the defense will carry Charleston Southern. The front seven is one of the best in the FCS, led by Anthony Ellis and Solomon Brown. Ellis, a senior defensive end, tallied 7.0 sacks and 16.0 tackles-for-loss. The opposition has to pay attention to Ellis at all times and the rest of the line will take advantage of that. Mike Taylor, Noah Oliver and Johnny Robinson are all quality linemen who will spend plenty of time in the backfield. Brown is the leader of the linebackers and led the team with 70 tackles last season. He also added 4.5 sacks, 14.5 tackles-for-loss, seven pass breakups and eight quarterback hurries. With Zane Cruz and Landon Sayegh flanking Brown, Charleston Southern has an extremely potent group of linebackers. The secondary has a few holes to fill and will look to rebuild around Shadarius Hopkins.
The Bottom Line:
With Liberty ineligible for a conference title and a playoff berth, Charleston Southern is clearly the team to beat in the Big South. However, games against Liberty still count towards the conference standings and the Buccaneers face off against the Flames in the final game of the regular season. A week earlier they face another tough test at Kennesaw State. Those two games at the end of the year will likely decide the Big South championship and automatic berth to the FCS Playoffs.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 266.5 (6th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 142.9 (112, 5)
Total Offense: 409.5 (34, 2)
Scoring Offense: 33.0 (20, 2)
Rushing Defense: 135.3 (36, 2)
Pass Defense: 158.8 (3, 2)
Total Defense: 294.1 (7, 1)
Scoring Defense: 22.2 (25, 2)
Turnover Margin: -0.27 (74, 5)
Sacks: 2.64 (18, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.91 (56, 4)
HERO Sports 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#34 Jamari Dunbar
#111 Terrell Powell