Meet Will Healy, the Charlotte 49ers new football coach
The Charlotte 49ers are a month away from opening their seventh football season, a Thursday night on-campus game against Gardner-Webb at Richardson Stadium. Here’s a look at how the 49ers’ schedule shapes up, with some educated guesses at how those games will turn out:
Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m., ESPN+
The 49ers open the season under new coach Will Healy against the Football Championship Subdivision’s Bulldogs, from down the road in Boiling Springs. Gardner-Webb, picked fifth in the Big South, was 3-8 last season. Linebacker Darien Reynolds, a former Vance High standout, is an all-Big South preseason first-teamer.
Fearless prediction: Charlotte 45-14.
At Appalachian State
Sept. 7, 3:30 p.m., ESPN+
This budding rivalry is renewed after the Mountaineers blistered the 49ers 45-9 last season in Charlotte (they’re scheduled to play four more games beginning in 2026). Appalachian, which has a new coach in Eliah Drinkwitz, returns 10 starters on defense and seven on defense from a team that went 11-2 last season, winning the Sun Belt championship and playing (and winning) a bowl game for a fourth consecutive season.
Fearless prediction: Appalachian State 42-17.
Sept. 14, 6 p.m., ESPN3
The 49ers hope to play better this season against the Minutemen than they did in 2018. UMass jumped to a 28-0 first-quarter lead on the way to a 49-31 victory in Amherst, Mass. The Minutemen, who went on to finish 4-8, have a new coach in Walt Bell. Most of the team’s stars from last season, including receiver Andy Isabella, are gone.
Fearless prediction: Charlotte 21-13.
Sept. 21, Time, TV TBA
The 49ers’ Power 5 opponent just so happens to be the defending national champion Tigers. Clemson’s offense includes quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne, both all-America candidates. Charlotte will get an up-close look at how college football is done right.
Fearless prediction: Clemson 49-6.
Sept. 28, 3:30 p.m., NFL Network
Dabo Swinney one week, Lane Kiffin the next. Charlotte opens its Conference USA season against Kiffin’s Owls, whom the 49ers beat last season on a 56-yard field goal by Jonathan Cruz in what was former coach Brad Lambert’s final game. FAU will be without its offensive stars of last season -- including running back Devin Singletary — but does have standout linebacker Rashad Smith back.
Fearless prediction: Charlotte 28, FAU 27.
At Florida International
Oct. 12, 7 p.m., ESPN+
The Panthers are picked second in C-USA’s East Division and have one of the league’s top quarterbacks in James Morgan, who threw a school-record 26 touchdown passes last season. Coach Butch Davis has 16 starters back from last season’s team that went 9-4 and finished tied for second in the East.
Fearless prediction: FIU 24, Charlotte 14.
At Western Kentucky
Oct. 19, 4 p.m., ESPN+
The 49ers cruised against the Hilltoppers last season, winning 40-14 in Charlotte. WKU, however, should improve on last season’s 3-9 mark and has one of C-USA’s top receivers in Lucky Jackson.
Fearless prediction: WKU 17, Charlotte 10.
Oct. 26, 3:30 p.m., ESPN+
Charlotte will get a first look at perhaps C-USA’s top player, Mean Green quarterback Mason Fine, who is the country’s active leader in career passing yards (9,417). North Texas is the preseason favorite to win C-USA’s West Division title.
Fearless prediction: North Texas 35, Charlotte 21
Nov. 2, 3:30 p.m., ESPN3
Gone is star quarterback Brent Stockstill, but the Blue Raiders have one of C-USA’s top playmakers in receiver Ty Lee. Charlotte is winless against Middle Tennessee in four games.
Fearless prediction: Charlotte 21, Middle Tennessee 17
At Texas-El Paso
Nov. 9, 3 p.m., ESPN+
Charlotte makes its first trip to El Paso, where the Miners are expected to again struggle. Kai Locksley is a dual-threat quarterback for a program that’s won just one game over the past two seasons.
Fearless prediction: Charlotte 35, UTEP 24.
Nov. 23, 3:30, Stadium
The Thundering Herd is the preseason favorite to win C-USA’s East Division. Marshall has nine starters back on offense, including quarterback Isaiah Green, last season’s co-freshman player of the year in the league.
Fearless prediction: Marshall 28, Charlotte 24.
At Old Dominion
Nov. 30, 2, ESPN+
The 49ers will get a look at the Monarchs’ reconstructed Ballard Stadium, which will seat 22,480 and be a marked improvement over its aging predecessor. ODU, which like Charlotte has a football program still in its infancy, slipped to 4-8 last season, including a 28-25 loss against the 49ers.
Fearless prediction: ODU 24, Charlotte 17
Final record: 5-7 (3-5 C-USA)..