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Chanticleers expect to carry late 2010 playoff charge into the 2011 season
Many coaches would be satisfied if their teams rallied from a poor start to win a conference championship and reach the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. Not Coastal Carolina’s David Bennett.
His Chants recovered from a 1-4 start to claim the Big South Conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs in a three-way tie for the top. But Coastal Carolina suffered a first-round 17-10 loss to Western Illinois in the playoffs.
Bennett was disappointed with the loss and said his returning players feel the same way. In that game, the Chanticleers committed five turnovers, including four interceptions by quarterback Zach MacDowall.
“We should’ve won that playoff game,” the coach said. “These guys feel like they have something to prove, to come back and finish what they started.”
Coastal Carolina (6-6) showed signs of being a playoff team despite its poor start. The Chants lost a five-overtime game at Towson and hung tough in losses to FCS powers Georgia Southern and Richmond.
Once Big South play began, Coastal won five of its last six games and reached the playoffs for the second time in school history.
The Chants have the ability to return this season, especially on defense where Big South defensive player of the year linebacker Andre Jacobs heads a group with eight returning starters.
Jacobs had a team high 104 tackles last season. He said he was glad for the honors he gained last year, but they don’t mean much heading into 2011.
“I was glad to do that (last year), but at the same time, we want to keep working to attain more,” Jacobs said.
The biggest question for Coastal Carolina will be at the quarterback spot, where Bennett is searching for a MacDowall’s replacement. MacDowall threw for 2,632 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also ran for eight TDs.
The competition in fall camp will include former South Carolina quarterback Aramis Hillary and highly regarded freshman Alex Ross, Bennett said. Hillary played in five games last season, throwing just 25 passes with two interceptions and a touchdown.
Whoever wins the quarterback job will have tight end David Duran back. He led Big South tight ends with 34 catches last fall. The offensive line features all-Big South first-teamer Jamey Cheatwood and three other returning starters.
Jacobs will help on defense from defensive back Josh Norman.
The Chants were picked third in the preseason rankings behind Liberty and Stony Brook, both places Coastal Carolina must visit this season.
Bennett hopes his guys will carry last year’s positive run and disappointing end into this season. He says now they want to advance in the playoffs.
“Let’s win a national championship for the Big South Conference, for Coastal Carolina,” he said. “I think you’ve always got to have those goals set very, very high.”
BY PETE IACOBELLI, The Daily Journal