The Charlotte 49ers move into Conference USA with the reputation of a powerful offense and a leaky defense.
Offensive tackle Danny Book and safety Branden Dozier – Charlotte’s player representatives at the league’s football media day Wednesday – know things will be different as the 49ers move up to the highest level of college football.
“It’s a nice step up in competition,” said Dozier, a senior who led the 49ers in tackles last season (86). “We’ve got new goals to strive and push for now. We’re going to compete.”
We’re going to compete.”
Charlotte 49ers safety Branden Dozier
Charlotte’s spread offense averaged 38.8 points and 486.9 yards per game last season. Most of the players responsible are back, including running back Kalif Phillips (1,436 yards) and receiver Austin Duke (79 receptions, 1,373 yards), as well as transfer running back Andrew Buie from West Virginia.
“It will translate pretty well,” Book said. “We’ve been consistent. We get up to the line to run the ball quickly. That breaks down a defense. I think we’ll do fine.”
Much of Charlotte’s potent offense returns (nine starters)
The 49ers’ defense, which allowed 31.6 points and 477.5 yards per game last season, has a new coordinator in Matt Wallerstedt.
“Our whole mentality has changed since coach Wallerstedt’s come in,” said Dozier. “We’ve become a lot more aggressive. We used to work off of what the offense gave us, instead of forcing their hand. Now our aggression is high.
“But we’ve got to go out there and prove we’ve improved as a defense.”
▪ C-USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky said the league will leave it up to individual schools on whether to have medical observers in the press box during games. The ACC recently announced it would require that this season.
“We’re not mandating anything,” said Banowsky. “Each institution is ultimately responsible for its health and safety issues. It may happen in different forms.”
▪ Wednesday’s media day will probably be one of Banowsky’s final appearances as C-USA’s commissioner. He’s leaving for the College Football Playoff Foundation, the organization’s charitable arm. Banowsky said his legacy with C-USA will likely be guiding it safely through the tumultuous conference realignments of recent years.
7Charlotte’s predicted finish C-USA East
▪ Charlotte coach Brad Lambert said linebacker Mark Pettit (academics) and running back Damarrell Alexander (team rules) have been dismissed from the team, but they could be reinstated.
▪ Lambert said the 49ers continue to talk to in-state FBS programs about scheduling games, including North Carolina, East Carolina, Wake Forest and N.C. State. Charlotte recently added Duke for a home-and-home series in 2020 and ’21. The 49ers’ nonconference schedules are set through 2018, and their 2019 schedule only lacks an FCS opponent (Clemson, Appalachian State and Massachusetts are already slated).
Conference USA preseason media poll
1. Western Kentucky: Finished last season with five consecutive wins.
2. Marshall: Defending league champ must replace QB Rakeem Cato.
3. Middle Tennessee: Safety Kevin Byard is nation’s active leader in interceptions (15).
4. Florida Atlantic: OT Reggie Bain was league’s newcomer of the year in 2014.
5. Florida International: Panthers’ defense ranked 35th nationally (363.8 yards per game).
6. Old Dominion: Finished last season with a flourish, winning final three games to go 6-6.
7. Charlotte: 49ers play first season in C-USA with high-flying offense, questionable defense.
1. Louisiana Tech: Kenneth Dixon is nation’s leading active rusher (3,410 career yards).
2. Rice: Owls have played in three consecutive bowls.
3. Texas-El Paso: Miners’ Aaron Jones rushed for 1,321 yards, 14 TDs last season).
4. Southern Mississippi: Eagles QB Nick Mullens threw for 200-plus yards nine times last season.
5. North Texas: Kicker Trevor Moore was a freshman All-American, hitting 15-of-17 field goal attempts.
6. Texas-San Antonio: Just six returning starters, lowest number in the country. David Scott