Hasaan Klugh believes a change in jersey number will bring better results for the Charlotte 49ers.
Klugh, Charlotte’s starting quarterback, is wearing No. 7 as a reminder to push himself to improve on a season in which he earned the team’s offensive MVP award. It also corresponds with his status as the 49ers’ unquestioned leader.
“Coming in I was given (No.) 16 and I had a decent season last year, but I knew it was time to step it up,” Klugh said Saturday at Media Day. “So I decided to change my number and one of my favorite quarterbacks is Michael Vick. I just tried to take a new meaning out of it.”
Klugh transformed the offense when he took over after Charlotte opened 1-4. He went 3-4 as a starter and was responsible for 1,782 yards (1,356 passing) and 18 touchdowns, including 10 via the pass. Although Charlotte lost career receiving leader Austin Duke to graduation, Trent Bostick, who missed 2016 with concussion symptoms, returns to the lineup with T.L. Ford to provide experience.
“He’s just an overall receiver,” Klugh said of Bostick. “He’s a dog, a big receiver and very physical. ... Anybody who comes his way, he’s going to get it.”
▪ Charlotte coach Brad Lambert acknowledges the offense is better situated in terms of personnel, especially on the line, where the 49ers return an experienced mix of players.
“I really like where our offensive line is,” he said. “They’ve been coming together and playing well. They’re playing really physical right now, so I’m really proud of that group because that’s where we’ve got to hang our hat so Robert (Washington), and Benny (LeMay), Aaron McAllister and Kam Duncan can get started at running back.”
Said Washington, who ran for 489 yards and five scores on 97 carries last year: “I’m definitely going to try to step up to the plate where Kalif (Phillips) left some big shoes to fill. I’m going to try to do my best like I did last year. My role last year was to keep the train moving when Kalif came out. This year, I’ve definitely got to step into his role and be the starter and keep what he had going.”
▪ Defensively, Charlotte has challenges in replacing all-Conference USA tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who was drafted by the Cleveland Browns, and end Brandon Banks. Their development up front will be critical to the entire unit.
“Obviously, communication is key, but they’re improving a lot more than I expected,” linebacker Karrington King said. “Lambert has them really going right now and there’s a really high standard right now.”