This preview originally published February 6 and has since been updated.
"My story is 10 times better than the Rudy story," Moglia says. "Rudy's a tough kid in the city, Chicago kid that wanted to go to Notre Dame. That's it."
In 1983, Joe Yukica's Dartmouth Big Green went 4-5-1, playing pretty good defense but scoring 17 or fewer in each loss. To that point, Yukica had gone 23-11-1 in Ivy League play over his five years in Hanover. But the trend was growing negative.
In 1984, with a new defensive coordinator, the Big Green fell to 2-7, allowing 38 points per game over the first four games and never recovering. In 1985, following another two-win campaign, Yukica was fired ... and then unfired. He sued to force the school to uphold his contract, which expired after 1986, and he somehow won. He won three games in 1986 and retired on his own terms.
That Yukica was able to overrule his own firing was the most noteworthy thing about his tenure. He never recovered from losing his defensive coordinator following the 1983 season.
That DC was a 34-year-old named Joe Moglia [Update: CCU’s head coach has taken a medical leave for the 2017 season, replaced by offensive coordinator Jamey Chadwell]. He had six years of coordinator experience, but he pursued a different calling, one that actually paid a little bit. He went to work for Merrill Lynch and within a couple of decades became CEO of what is now TD Ameritrade. And then he went back to his football roots.
In 2008, Moglia decided he wasn't done with coaching after all. He retired as CEO and became an unpaid assistant for Bo Pelini. As one does.
Moglia volunteered at Nebraska, became head coach of the UFL's Omaha Nighthawks for a year, then took on the head coaching job at Coastal Carolina.
Moglia has gone from the Ivy League to Wall Street to Nebraska to the outskirts of Myrtle Beach.
He has been the subject of profile pieces from the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and Grantland, to name a few. If there's one thing he knows, it's taking an uncertain leap. And now his employer will do the same.
It’s rather on-brand for Moglia to oversee Coastal’s leap to FBS. The school didn’t have a football program until 2003, when Moglia was overseeing Ameritrade acquisitions. He is just the second coach in program history, and he didn’t waste a moment proving himself as a program leader.
The Chanticleers improved from 7-4 to 8-3 in 2012, his first season. Since then, they’ve averaged an 11-2 record and twice finished in the FCS top 10. In both 2013 and 2014, they reached the FCS quarterfinals but had the misfortune of drawing North Dakota State. In 2014, they nearly beat the Bison.
So now it’s Sun Belt time. It’s easy for a program to mistime its jump to FBS — you have to call your shot at least a couple of years out, meaning you have time to fall off pace or make a bad hire. UMass and Western Kentucky were successful FCS programs but hit FBS with a dull thud. WKU rebounded, but it took a few years. UMass is still looking for traction.
Others have done just fine. New conference mates Georgia Southern and Appalachian State have been in FBS for six combined seasons and won at least nine games in four of them. Old Dominion and South Alabama were bowling by their third seasons in FBS.
Making the jump to FBS
|Team||Dates||Avg. Sagarin rank before jump||Avg. S&P+ after jump||Avg. S&P+ rank after jump|
|Team||Dates||Avg. Sagarin rank before jump||Avg. S&P+ after jump||Avg. S&P+ rank after jump|
At this point, UMass is an outlier. If you are doing well in FCS when you make the jump, odds are pretty good that you’ll find FBS to your liking.
And Coastal Carolina was doing quite well.
2016 in review
CCU wasn't eligible for the FCS playoffs in 2016 due to transition rules, but the Chanticleers were as solid as ever. They went 10-2, losing only to excellent Jacksonville State and Charleston Southern teams by a combined two points.
On the road against JSU, four different Chanticleers threw passes as Coastal fell victim to quarterback injuries. But Coastal still led 26-20 until JSU scored with 6:44 left.
Against Charleston Southern, the offense wasn’t an issue: The Chanticleers averaged 7.4 yards per play and raced ahead 21-7 after one quarter. After falling behind at halftime, they took a 35-30 lead heading into the fourth. After CSU took the lead back, CCU’s Ryan Granger forced overtime with a 35-yard field goal. The teams traded scores, but after Kenneth Daniels got the ‘Cleers to within 59-58 with a touchdown in the second overtime, Granger’s PAT attempt was blocked. CSU survived.
Average score of Coastal’s other 10 games: CCU 36, Opponent 15.
The Chanticleer offense has averaged at least 34 per game in every year of Moglia’s tenure, and the defense has come around over the last three years. CCU allowed a Moglia-low 5.1 yards per play in 2016, good enough to offset some quarterback issues.
Okay, let’s back up. “Some quarterback issues” doesn’t really cut it.
I hate to use my one allotted “exploding Spinal Tap drummers” reference this early in the preview series, but it might not ever be more applicable.
- Three-star QB-of-the-future Chance Thrasher was lost with a shoulder injury in fall camp.
- Sophomore Josh Stilley took over and got hurt in Week 3 against Jacksonville State. Freshman Avery McCall came in and also got hurt. He redshirted.
- Junior and career backup Tyler Keane made it 105 passes before injuring his ankle.
- Freshmen Austin Bradley and Ryan Lee took over. Bradley couldn’t really run, and Lee couldn’t really pass — he threw three passes while rushing 73 times. He will play receiver in 2017.
You can forgive the offense for slumping to 37 points per game and 5.8 yards per play.
Coordinator Dave Patenaude’s plans to move to more of a pass-first attack went out the window early in the cavalcade of QB injuries. Instead, Coastal leaned heavily (and with great effect) on the run. A foursome of backs — De’Angelo Henderson, Kenneth Daniels, Osharmar Abercrombie, and Jah-Maine Martin — averaged 32 carries and 187 yards per game. Lee provided a jolt as well.
Patenaude’s improv act was good enough to earn him a promotion. He took the Temple coordinator job. In his place, Moglia called in a ringer: Jamey Chadwell, Charleston Southern's head coach. Chadwell won 35 games in Charleston and reached the FCS playoffs twice in four years, but the draw of the FBS leap was strong.
Chadwell’s 2016 offense at CSU averaged 44 carries and only 17 passes per game. The Buccaneers were prolific, but it will be interesting to see what Chadwell attempts with his two leading rushers and basically 3.5 offensive line starters gone.
Something else interesting to watch: the redshirts.
Per the 247Sports Composite, Moglia’s 2016 recruiting class featured five three-star recruits and three high-twos. Not bad for a startup. Five of those play on offense, and four redshirted: McCall (involuntarily), running back Victor Greene, and receivers Larry Collins Jr. and Jay King II.
These players and Boston College transfer Marcus Outlow could give the Chanticleers a nice boost of athleticism in the skill positions. Plus, returnees like Abercrombie and Martin (combined: 5.6 yards per carry) and receiver Chris Jones (22 catches, 323 yards) could offset the loss of two leading rushers and two of three leading wideouts.
Find the right quarterback — and goodness knows they come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, from the pro-style Thrasher to the dual-threat McCall to Syracuse transfer Austin Wilson — and you might be able to implement whatever style you want.
At least, you can if you figure things out up front. Coastal has FBS-caliber size on the line; four returnees with starting experience (26 career starts) average 6’4, 300 pounds. But depth and experience were both depleted by graduation.
If 6’4, 305-pound JUCO transfer Kenneth Sims is a keeper, and if a three-star freshman or two are ready to stick in the rotation, maybe the line will be alright. But Coastal finished 2016 with 136 career starts and begins 2017 with 26. That’s quite a drop-off.
Moglia has basically put together an FCS all-star team on his coaching staff. Chadwell's bona fides are impressive, and a year ago Moglia named Mickey Matthews, head coach of James Madison's 2004 national title team, his defensive coordinator. Matthews led JMU for 15 years and won an FCS national title as Marshall's defensive coordinator in 1992 as well.
In Matthews' first season, the Chanticleers allowed 0.7 fewer yards per play (from 5.8 in 2015 to 5.1) and picked off 15 more passes than the year before. Their 19.2 percent havoc rate would have ranked 14th in the country at the FBS level. And a few of the reasons for this successful aggression return in 2017.
A few don’t, of course. Linebacker Alex Scearce (13.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, 12 passes defensed) was Mr. Everything but ran out of eligibility. So did four of the top five tacklers in the secondary — and as we’ve seen, turnover in the secondary can be deadly for a defense.
Still, there’s a decent base of experience. Injury and shuffling led to nine defensive backs recording at least 10 tackles; five return, and all five are either juniors or seniors, including Kent State transfer Eric Church.
There are also some play-makers. Ends Marcus Williamson and Myles White combined for 15.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2016, middle linebacker Shane Johnson combined 5.5 non-sack TFLs with three passes defensed, and junior Anthony Chesley (2.5 TFLs, two interceptions, eight breakups) immediately becomes one of the Sun Belt’s better cornerbacks.
Plus, like the offense, the defense could get an athleticism boost from redshirts and new signees: 2016 signees Silas Kelly (linebacker), Darrell Malone Jr. (cornerback), and Calvin Smith (safety) were all mid- to high-two-star recruits, and 2017 signees Tay Pringle (tackle), Michael Makins (linebacker), and Cantorian Weems (defensive back) were three-star guys.
It’s a mixed bag. Punter Evan Rabon’s kicks aren’t particularly long, but they are high and mostly unreturnable. And while sophomore return man Ky’Jon Tyler is all-or-nothing, the alls are impressive: He returned 12 kickoffs and punts in 2016, and two went for touchdowns.
Plus, while Masamitsu Ishibashi almost never gets the ball in the end zone on kickoffs, opponents averaged under 19 yards per return last year. There is value in high kicks, and CCU kicks ‘em high.
If Granger hadn’t run out of eligibility, this would be one of the league’s better special teams units.
2017 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|TBD||at Appalachian State||62||-18.7||14%|
|TBD||at Arkansas State||83||-10.5||27%|
|Projected S&P+ Rk||114|
|Projected Off. / Def. Rk||96 / 113|
|2-Year Recruiting Rk||130|
|2016 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||+11 / +4.3|
|2016 TO Luck/Game||+2.8|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||48% (55%, 41%)|
For a newbie, Coastal gets some respect from S&P+. And really, that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The Chanticleers ranked 101st in Sagarin last year. The next three FBS teams above them: NIU, Ohio, and UTSA, two bowl teams and a team that finished 5-7 in the MAC. The next three FBS teams below them: Arizona, Hawaii, and Miami (Ohio), two bowl teams and a Pac-12 program.
Coastal is projected 114th in S&P+, and it would be higher if not for the turnover in the secondary and the receiving corps. That results in quite a few tossups — CCU has between a 45 and 56 percent chance of winning in five games. Find a quarterback and establish a run game, and the odds of hitting .500 in Year 1 are strong.
Moglia really is the perfect coach to lead a charge into FBS. It took him virtually no time to build an FCS stalwart, and his odd-as-hell résumé will help to generate a little bit of extra attention for CCU. And his Chanticleers aren’t that many ifs away from hitting the ground running at a pretty high speed.