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Coastal Carolina uses bye week to reflect on season
With no opponent looming last Saturday and no gameplan to put together, the Coastal Carolina football coaches instead used much of the team’s bye week to look back and see what they could learn from the first four games.
At 3-1, the Chanticleers are off to their best start since 2005 – but still with much to prove in their quest for another FCS playoff appearance.
After posting an encouraging season-opening win over a Furman team that has since improved to 3-1, winning easily enough against overmatched Division II foe Catawba, sustaining a humbling 59-0 loss at Georgia and bouncing back with a win over a rebuilding and scholarship-limited North Carolina A&T program, the Chants open Big South Conference play this Saturday against VMI.
Who | VMI at Coastal Carolina
When | 7 p.m. Saturday
Where | Brooks Stadium, Conway
Radio | 93.9-FM
But before turning the focus to the 0-4 Keydets, they took advantage of a week off from competition to focus on themselves.
“[We reviewed] everything. Every single play,” CCU offensive coordinator Kevin Brown said. “We’ve got printouts, we do all kinds of stuff. We’ve got a great system here that really breaks us down a lot as long as we put the information in the computers. We did all that [and studied] all the tendencies that we’ve been showing, so we can use some of that.
“I heard a coach a long time ago, Brian Billick, said ‘It’s OK to have tendencies as long as you know that you have those tendencies so that you can work on breaking them.’”
Of course, neither Brown nor defensive coordinator Curtis Walker spoke very specifically about the tendencies or deficiencies they identified through the early part of the season.
But for the offense, the emphasis is on steadier play after sandwiching at-times strong production around a six-quarter scoreless streak.
“We’re doing some really good things, and we do some real dumb things,” Brown said. “… The two big things we’re trying to harp on is being consistent through practice so it carries over to the game and getting off on a better start in the first quarter because we’ve really struggled opening games in the first couple of drives.”
Defensively, the Chants have held their two FCS-level opponents to an average of 276 yards and 18.5 points, but with a veteran-laden group, Walker sees room for improvement.
“We worked continuously on the small things that have got to get better,” he said. “Tackling soundly, creating field position by turnovers or getting off the field when we’re supposed to, and then our communication on the field. Those are the things we have to focus on that we can handle no matter what other team is on the field against us.”
Small earning role
One role player who has made the most of his opportunities through those first four games is third-year sophomore Travis Small.
Buried down the depth chart and plagued by injuries the last two seasons, Small has earned a role in the Chants’ running back rotation behind veterans Marcus Whitener and Jeremy Height.
Small has emerged as the team’s third running back – and one the coaches aren’t afraid to use in key situations –despite coming into the season with no career carries.
“He’s consistent every day. He comes out here and works his butt off. He’s earned that right,” Brown said. “Playing every day out here at practice, he’s earned it. He’s a smart football player, so even though he doesn’t have a lot of reps sometimes in the game, when we put him in, we feel real confident about him knowing his assignments, knowing his protections and knowing exactly what to do. And if you do those three things, you’re going to get playing time.”
Sophomore Aaron Jones was also initially in that mix and projected as a potential goal-line back for the Chants, but he did not receive any carries last game at North Carolina A&T. Brown said that Jones has fallen out of the rotation for now as he focuses on improving his academic performance.
Small, meanwhile, scored his first career touchdown in that game two weekends ago on a three-yard run. For the season, he’s averaging 3.8 yards per carry in nine attempts –including a clutch performance during the game-winning drive against Furman back on Sept. 3 when he gained 25 yards over three straight carries.
“I feel like they put me in the rotation a little bit. As long as my coaches have faith in me, I have faith in myself to go out and get the job done,” Small said. “But Marcus and Jeremy Height are two good backs, so any back can go in there and do whatever [I’ve] been doing.”
Coastal will feature camouflage Chanticleer logos Saturday night in recognition of the military, donning decals designed by current CCU student Ryan Cirignano, who served four years in the U.S. Navy.
The decals will also have a pink outline and a pink ribbon will be attached to the back of the helmets in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
All active military personnel, veterans of the armed services and reservists in the military, as well as fire fighters, EMTs and police officers will be admitted for $8 Saturday night with their service I.D.
And prior to the game, former CCU basketball standout Howard White will be recognized for his military service. White, a Master Sergeant in the South Carolina Army National Guard, ranks ninth all-time in career points at Coastal with 1,321 over two seasons from 1974-76.
By RYAN YOUNG, The Sun News