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Charleston Southern bolstered backfield creating Big South buzz
With a solid group of talented and experienced players returning, the Charleston Southern defensive backfield is potentially one of the top units in the Big South Conference this season.
Junior cornerback Charles James, who intercepted six passes last fall, is a third-team preseason All-America selection by the College Sporting News.
However, the unquestioned leader in the secondary is senior strong safety Chris Kuzdale.
Kuzdale will be starting in the backfield for the fourth consecutive season. He has 162 career tackles and three interceptions and serves as the unit’s emotional leader, on and off the field.
“In order to be good at anything, you have to have good leaders,” said CSU head coach Jay Mills at Friday’s annual football media day. “Your marquee players have to be your hardest working players, regardless of the level. Chris epitomizes the college student athlete. He’s a 4.0 student, he’s a four-year starter on the field, he’s very active in the community service area and has spent the last three years on mission trips during the summer. He’s the kind of guy we want as a leader of our football team and every player respects him a great deal.”
Kuzdale takes his role as leader seriously and says part of being a leader is to encourage others, particularly the younger players, to accept leadership responsibilities as well.
“As a senior, I feel like I have to be there to guide those younger guys along the way, but for us to be successful as a team, those guys have to produce for us also,” said the 5-11, 200-pound Tampa native. “I think the important thing about our secondary is that we’re very close off the field. We trust each other a great deal.”
“The talent level here has really increased over the last few years. There are some really good young players in the program right now. It’s an exciting time for me to be a part of the program and to watch those younger guys step up as leaders for us.”
Charleston Southern’s first three games of the season are in Florida – starting with the season opener against Central Florida on Sept. 3, and followed by games at Florida State and Jacksonville.
As a Florida native, Kuzdale is excited about playing so often in front of friends and family.
“The one thing about playing at CSU is we will go play anywhere against anyone,” said Kuzdale. “We’ve played Florida and Miami, Hawaii, Kentucky. Now we have these three games, all in Florida. It’s exciting for me and for a lot of these guys. We have a lot of players from Florida, and it’s great we get to go back and show off a great university to our friends.”
BY DAVID SHELTON, The Post and Courier