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Mills says leadership will be key for young Charleston Southern
Many questions in terms of personnel surround the 2011 Charleston Southern football team, but one thing that head coach Jay Mills says his team does have this fall is leadership.
Mills begins his ninth season at the school and the program is coming off its first losing season since Mills’ first year. The team was hit hard by injuries and finished 3-8 overall, winning just once in Big South play.
CSU will start a sophomore with very little experience at quarterback. The receiving corps is as young as it’s ever been, losing the top six pass catchers from a year ago.
The top returning rusher gained only 182 yards last season. Overall, only 11 seniors are listed on the entire two-deep roster.
Nonetheless, Mills says the 2011 team as a great deal of potential.
“We are young in a few places but this is going to be a good football team,” said Mills, who has a 43-46 record at the school. “The question with this team is when will it be a good football team? We have as much talent in the program as we’ve ever had and we have more speed than we’ve ever had. But the biggest thing I can say about this team is they are very committed. The leadership on this team is outstanding, not only from our seniors, but from our younger players as well.”
One of those leaders, junior cornerback Charles James, said last year is in the past and he feels this year’s team can be a major surprise.
“We had some things happen last season that were beyond our control, injuries and stuff,” said James, a preseason all-conference and FCS third-team All-American pick. “I think this team has a chance to be very good. We have a great group of guys. We are focused as one to be the very best we can be and people should not take us lightly. I’m with these guys everyday and I know how talented we are.”
Mills hopes sophomore Malcom Dixon, who started the final three games last season, will make natural progression at quarterback. He is an adequate passer but a very talented runner.
Redshirt junior Richard Mounce, a former Clemson baseball player, is more than ready to step in at quarterback if needed.
The strength offensively is up front where four starters, led by preseason all-conference pick Levi McFatter, return. Four of the five starters have been in the program and have played for at least three years.
Senior B.J. Hackworth and sophomore Teddy Allen head up the running game. Two freshmen receivers, Kevin Glears, from Goose Creek, and Estevan Cintron will make immediate impacts at receiver.
James and senior strong safety Chris Kuzdale lead a very talented and effective secondary, a unit that most feel is among the best in the Big South. James led the conference with six interceptions last season and needs three to become the school’s career leader in picks.
Three junior linebackers – Mike Chocholousek, Brad Sweatt and Cornelius Sterling – bring solid leadership to the defense. Seniors Matt Woods and Jacque Carter anchor the defensive front.
Senior Andy Brown returns for his fourth season as the starting punter and adds placekicking duties to his workload this fall.
Charleston Southern continues to play the toughest non-conference schedule in the Big South. This year the Buccaneers open at Central Florida and then visit Florida State in week two. Not a bad thing since 45 players hail from the Sunshine State.
“We will play anyone, anywhere and that’s fun for the players,” says Kuzdale. “When you come here to play you know you will get a chance to compete against some of the top programs in the top conferences in the country. It helps us get even more excited and more focused for the start of the season.”
BY DAVID SHELTON, The Post and Courier