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How former starting QB Hasaan Klugh remains in Charlotte 49ers’ plans

Charlotte 49ers coach Brad Lambert said there had been consideration for former starting quarterback Hasaan Klugh (above) to return kicks for Charlotte, but he will likely continue to contribute only as a quarterback.
Charlotte 49ers coach Brad Lambert said there had been consideration for former starting quarterback Hasaan Klugh (above) to return kicks for Charlotte, but he will likely continue to contribute only as a quarterback.

Hasaan Klugh might have lost his job as the Charlotte 49ers’ starting quarterback, but it doesn’t mean he’s not part of the team’s plans.

Klugh, a senior who was last season’s starter when the 49ers went 1-11, got in for 12 plays behind starter Chris Reynolds during Saturday’s 45-9 loss against Appalachian State. Klugh rushed for 23 yards on 10 carries and threw incompletions on both of his passes.

That might not seem like a huge contribution. But coach Brad Lambert said a player like Klugh, who can hurt the opposition with both his arm and legs (he threw for 1,529 yards in 2017 and rushed for 532), is too valuable of an asset to keep on the bench.

Charlotte 49ers senior Hasaan Klugh ran for 23 yards in a loss against Appalachian State on Saturday. Benjamin Robson

“We’ve got a package set up for him, and we want to expand on that,” Lambert said Tuesday ahead of his team’s Conference USA opener Saturday against Old Dominion at Richardson Stadium. “Running or throwing, we want to get him on the move. He’s a good change of pace for us. He’s a gifted athlete and we want to get him involved in the game more.”

Klugh wasn’t especially effective for the 49ers (1-1) against the Mountaineers, picking up 29 positive yards rushing, but also losing 6. During one series in the third quarter, Klugh came in for three consecutive plays, ultimately being brought down for a loss of a yard when he went up the middle on a fourth-and-1.

Lambert said there had been consideration for Klugh to return kicks for Charlotte, but he will likely continue to contribute only as a quarterback. Evan Shirreffs, who was also competing for the starting quarterback job, is out for four to six weeks with an abdominal strain, so Lambert doesn’t want to risk Klugh elsewhere.

“I definitely should be at quarterback,” Klugh said before the season. “I’ve always played quarterback. I had an arm on me and I learned by studying film that I could get out of trouble by running the ball. But quarterback is the position for me.”

3rd-down improvement

Lambert said “emphasis” is what’s been the key in turning around Charlotte’s offensive and defensive third-down efficiency numbers. The 49ers’ offense has improved from 26 percent in 2017 to 47 percent this season; the defense has gone from 44 percent in 2017 to 29 percent this season.

Those numbers held up for the most part against Appalachian State, with the offense converting 4 of 9 third downs and the defense holding the Mountaineers to 8 of 17.

“Since January, it’s been a point of emphasis for us,” Lambert said. “Of all the changes we made around here, that was one of them. Hopefully we can continue that trend.”

Hurricane update

49ers officials said they are continuing to monitor the progress of Hurricane Florence and that, as of Tuesday afternoon, Saturday’s game is still scheduled to be played. The Monarchs traveled to Charlotte on Tuesday after much of the Hampton Roads (Virginia) area was under mandatory evacuation because of Hurricane Florence.

Player of the week

After kicking three field goals against Appalachian State, 49ers freshman Jonathan Cruz was named C-USA’s special teams player of the week. Cruz was 3-of-3, hitting from 46, 54 and 48 yards. The 54-yarder was second longest in school history. Cruz kicked a 55-yarder in high school. All four of his kickoffs against the Mountaineers were touchbacks.

3 questions with ...

Offensive lineman Cam Clark

Q. What kind of problems will ODU’s defensive line cause you?

“On the edges they’re the most talented. They like to rush the passer and then retrace their footsteps and get inside to the quarterback. It’s going to be a big week for the (offensive) tackles. It’s a challenge we want to take on.”

Q. How will potential bad weather affect the game?

“It depends. Sometimes the rain makes it cooler. Other times it just makes it really humid. That’ll be very interesting to see. I looked at the weather (Tuesday) and it said the humidity is going to be in the upper 90s. That makes it difficult to breathe when the air gets thick. Hopefully it will rain and that will cool us off, though.”

Q. How do you assess the offensive line’s play so far, especially with starter Nate Davis serving a four-game suspension?

“I wouldn’t say (the suspension) was a problem for us, but it took us back a little from what we expected. These other guys that have come in have had to step up. The unit has to play better. We knew we’d be one of the best units of this team, but we haven’t lived up to the hype. We understand that the way we played last week, we can’t have the quarterback on his back so much.”

Scouting the Monarchs

▪ ODU (0-2) has struggled, losing to FBS newcomer Liberty 52-10 and in its C-USA opener against Florida International 28-20. The Monarchs have been outscored 52-0 in the second half.

▪ The Monarchs have one of the top defensive players in the conference in senior defensive end Oshane Ximines, who has two sacks, four tackles for loss and two forced fumbles this season. He’s been a bright spot on a defense that is allowing 540.0 yards per game, last in C-USA and 121st (out of 129) nationally.

▪ Monarchs receiver Jonathan Duhart averages 116.5 yards per game, second in the league. But ODU’s offense hasn’t gotten untracked otherwise. The Monarchs average 111 yards per game rushing and will be challenged by the 49ers’ run defense, which allows 65 yards per game, best in the league.