The Big South has lost its three most successful members since it came together as a football conference in 2002. Coastal Carolina and Stony Brook had left in recent years, and Liberty will only be a partial member this season as it readies itself for a move to FBS in 2018.
That’s good news, though, for Charleston Southern. The Buccaneers have won the last two conference championships and subsequently earned their only two FCS postseason berths in the school’s history. They are the heavy favorites to win the league once again in 2017, but they have a new head coach after Jamey Chadwell left to become the offensive coordinator at Coastal Carolina.
Will the Bucs remain the odds-on favorites to claim another conference crown?
2016 Charleston Southern Football Season In Review
Mike Holloway was the most effective running back at the FCS level last season. He averaged 8.4 yards per carry, over a half-yard better than any other rusher with at least 100 carries. He paced a running game that was one of the best in the country, averaging six yards per carry and 266.5 yards per contest.
Meanwhile, quarterback Shane Bucenell had a promising start to his college career. The redshirt freshman wasn’t asked to do much as a passer, but he was the best option that the Buccaneers had under center. Three other signal callers took snaps and combined to complete just 29 of 77 passes for 472 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions. Anything but efficient.
Bucenell was much better, completing 59.6 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns against just six interceptions. He was a decent runner too, finishing with the third-most rushing yards on the team.
Kameron Brown was the leading receiver for the squad. While the Buccaneers didn’t throw the ball much, he averaged 20 yards per catch and hauled in six scores as Bucenell’s main target.
The defense was the real star of the show for Charleston Southern last season. Opponents were only able to average 4.5 yards per play, and the unit kept the Bucs in plenty of games when the offense was not producing. The strong ‘D’ was the main reason why the Bucs almost knocked off North Dakota State in the season opener and came within a field goal of beating Wofford in the playoffs.
2017 Charleston Southern Football Season Preview
Bucenell is back and will be asked to play a bigger role in his sophomore season. The Bucs lose their top two running backs and will need Bucenell to be able to help open things up for the running game by keeping opposing defenses honest with his arm.
The quarterback is undersized at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, so keeping him healthy is going to be an integral part of this team’s success. He missed a few games last season with injury, and there are no real sound options behind him this fall. It’s likely he won’t be as much of a factor in the running game this season for that reason.
Offensive line will be the strength of this unit. Frank Cirone leads the hogs up front, and collectively they should be one of the best in the Big South with most of their depth chart back from 2016.
Defensively, the Buccaneers should be strong at stopping the run once again in 2017. Solomon Brown and Anthony Ellis headline a group that allowed just 3.6 yards per carry last season. These two combined to register 30.5 tackles for loss and wreaked havoc on opposing backfields.
2017 Charleston Southern Football Schedule
September 2: Charleston Southern at Mississippi State
September 9: Charleston Southern at South Carolina State
September 16: Charleston Southern at Elon
September 23: Charleston Southern vs. Point (GA)
September 30: Charleston Southern vs. Mississippi Valley State
October 14: Charleston Southern at Presbyterian
October 21: Charleston Southern vs. Savannah State
October 28: Charleston Southern vs. Monmouth
November 4: Charleston Southern at Gardner-Webb
November 11: Charleston Southern at Kennesaw State
November 18: Charleston Southern vs. Liberty
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
Beginning the season with three straight road games is tough, but at least none of those will be in conference play. Charleston Southern won’t play its first league foe until October 14 when it travels to lowly Presbyterian.
The 2017 conference winner will likely be determined on Veteran’s Day. The Buccaneers will travel to Kennesaw State and take on a strong Owls squad. The Owls had the highest-scoring offense in the conference last season and have a passing attack that could best this young secondary. While the Bucs should slay their other conference opponents, the Owls are in a great spot to claim this win. Go against Charleston Southern in your FCS Pick ‘Em Contests that week.