After losing 27 seniors from last season’s team, including 19 members of its first recruiting class, the Charlotte 49ers football team entered spring looking to move on without those who helped establish the program.
It won’t be known how the 49ers will fare without that group until the season begins in September. But Saturday’s spring game, which used a modified scoring system and pitted the offense against the defense, lent itself for observations.
Here are five takeaways from the offense’s 50-29 win:
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Redshirt junior quarterback Hasaan Klugh said his biggest point of emphasis this spring was improving his dropback passing. And for the most part, that showed Saturday.
Klugh completed 12 of 14 passes for 93 yards. His most impressive sequence came midway through the second quarter, when he scrambled for a 13-yard gain and then found receiver Trent Bostick for 21 yards on the next play.
Although Klugh has noticeably put on some weight, he said he hopes to gain about 10 more pounds before the season starts.
After redshirting last season, Bostick demonstrated a strong rapport with Klugh, leading all receivers with five catches for 65 yards.
Klugh targeted Bostick six times — twice as many times as Workpeh Kofa, Klugh’s second-most targeted receiver. The duo hooked up for three gains of at least 20 yards.
“We’ve had a great relationship on the field and off the field,” Bostick said. “I know sometimes when he gets frustrated and I get a little frustrated, we always come together and talk about it and calm each other down … I’m really looking forward to what we actually do in the season.”
Man in the middle
With the departure of Nick Cook, the team’s leading tackler in each of the last two seasons, the 49ers have a significant void to fill alongside Karrington King at inside linebacker.
Sophomore Anthony Butler, who attended Vance High and played limited snaps last season, is slated to replace Cook and impressed Saturday. He led the defense with seven tackles, including one for a loss.
“A guy like Anthony Butler is a guy who we’ve got to continue on …” Lambert said. “It’s nice to see him have some production (Saturday) in a game setting because he’s going to be counted on.”
Since the program’s inaugural 2013 season, Blake Brewer had handled primary field-goal kicking duties for Charlotte. His departure makes the battle at placekicker one of the most intriguing for the 49ers.
Lambert said the coaching staff placed pressure on redshirt freshman Kyle Corbett and redshirt sophomore Jackson Vansickle all spring, and that remained the case Saturday.
Corbett went 1-for-3 on field goals — his misses came from 31 and 32 yards out — and Vansickle was 2-for-2. Neither missed an extra point, with Corbett making his lone attempt and Vansickle going 2-for-2.
Strides made in the trenches
Throughout the spring, the two positional groups Lambert referenced the most were the defensive and offensive lines.
The defensive line continues to be a work in progress after the departures of Brandon Banks, Tanner Fleming and Larry Ogunjobi. However, Lambert said some young players — such as redshirt freshmen Austin Paraison and Johnny Ray — developed.
On the other side of the ball, Charlotte featured only 10 offensive linemen this spring. This allowed that group to get some extra reps before it adds six members from the 2017 recruiting class ahead of fall practice.
“Those two positions are the positions we’ve got to continue to build and get better …” Lambert said. “I’m really proud of those two groups because they really came along and did a nice job.”