In finishing 6-6 in 2008, Coastal Carolina's offense finished sixth in the Big South in scoring offense.
Don't let that statistic fool you into believing Kent State's defense will dominant the Chanticleers in Thursday night's season opener at Dix Stadium.
Most of the Chanticleers top performers return including junior quarterback Zach MacDowall, a preseason all-Big South selection. MacDowall completed 157-of-256 passes for 2,064 yards last season. He threw 16 touchdown passes to just six interceptions.
MacDowall, a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder was a Top 50 prospect in the state of Georgia before signing with Wake Forest in 2006. He spent a year and a half with the Demon Deacons before transferring to Coastal Carolina, where he started nine of 11 games in 2008.
"Essentially last year, if you hear the coaches say it, basically (he was) a guy that was playing backyard football," said Josh Hoke, Coastal Carolina's beat writer for the Myrtle Beach Sun News. "He has incredible instincts for the position. I actually know some people that are pretty tight in the program up at Wake Forest and they actually told me they think that kid, when he was there, was actually a better quarterback than Riley Skinner was. Of course (Wake Forest head coach) Jim Grobe is not going to bench the winningest quarterback in school history to play this guy."
Wake Forest's loss was Coastal Carolina's gain.
Heading into his second season as the starting quarterback, MacDowall could be even better in 2009.
"He's not a kid that will impress you physically, not a great athlete, but he's got a big arm; has a great feel for the position; the ability to move around in the pocket; just great instincts for the position," Hoke said. "It's his second year in the offense; he should know the offense by now. He started slowly but he's looked pretty good over the last few weeks."
Joining MacDowall in the backfield this season is junior running back Eric O'Neal, who led the Chanticleers with 405 rushing yards on 79 carries and scored three touchdowns.
A 2007 graduate of Houston County High in Kathleen, Ga., O'Neal earned Offensive Player of the Year and first team Class AAAAA all-state honors from the Associated Press and Georgia Sportswriters Association.
O'Neal has battled a series of injuries at Coastal Carolina, and has spent part of the 2009 camp on the sidelines, but he is expected to start Thursday's game at Kent State.
"He's just had this knack for getting hurt and staying hurt. It's always been a small, nagging injury that has kept him off the radar," Hoke said. "Everybody has said if the kid's healthy he's a 1,000-yard tailback. He banged up his leg in the first preseason scrimmage, got his ankle rolled up on, but he has practiced the last four or five days and has looked very good."
True freshman Jeremy Height also is expected to see some action against the Golden Flashes.
Prior to his senior season at McIntosh High School in Townsend, Ga., Rivals.com ranked the 5-foot-10, 200-pounder among its Top 100 prospects in the nation. A severely sprained ankle limited Height to just three games during the 2008 season and scared away the BCS college coaches that had shown early interest.
Height landed at Coastal Carolina and the Chanticleers are excited about his potential.
"He is a kid not a lot of people know about," Hoke said. "He was actually probably going to be headed to NC State, he basically (verbally committed) to NC State. He came in last spring and performed very well. He looks the part of a kid that could play at NC State--great vision, good size, good speed. I think they feel very good with him, especially the last couple of weeks getting a lot of reps when O'Neal was out."
Two of the Chanticleers top three wide receivers return this fall in redshirt juniors Brandon Whitley and Marquel Willis.
The duo combined to catch 59 passes for 769 yards and nine touchdowns.
Coastal Carolina also added to its roster Michigan State transfer David Duran. Duran, a 6-foot-5, 238-pounder, played in four games last season at Michigan State. Duran is expected to start Thursday's game against the Golden Flashes.
Charged with protecting MacDowall are left tackle Tim Franklin (6-foot-5, 305), left guard Seth Smalls (6-4, 340), center Ryan Boehm (6-1, 300), right guard James Sims (6-4, 285) and right tackle Bryan Brooks (6-6, 290).
The Chanticleers' offensive line is a mixed bag with two redshirt seniors, a redshirt junior and a pair of redshirt sophomores, but it's an experienced group. Franklin, a redshirt sophomore, played in all 11 games last season and Smalls, a redshirt junior, has 19 starts to his credit. Boehm, a redshirt senior, has started 23 of the 34 games he has played at Coastal and classmate Sims has started 22 of the 23 games in which he has suited up. Brooks, a redshirt sophomore, started three of the 12 games he played in last fall.
"They returned a lot of proven kids on offense," Hoke said. "It will be interesting to see if they can put it together."
Stay tuned to KentSportsReport.com for more on the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.
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