The Citadel faithful doesn't care much for Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell. That dislike figures to grow after Chadwell's 22nd-ranked Chanticleers face their in-state FCS rival on Thursday night.
Chadwell previously coached at Charleston Southern, a city rival for The Citadel, from 2013-16, where he won all four meetings with the long established Bulldogs.
The Chanticleers, among the biggest surprises of last year's COVID-19 impacted football season at 11-1, enter with their first-ever preseason ranking and hunger to show 2020 wasn't a fluke.
“I know they hate me,” Chadwell said. “But more so for us, it's an opportunity to get our team to play.”
Coastal Carolina has been on the rise since last year when it was picked last in the Sun Belt Conference East Division, yet started 11-0 and reached the league's title game. That contest, against No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette, was called off when the virus hit the Chants program.
Coastal Carolina lost its undefeated season to Liberty as its tying field goal was blocked in overtime for a 37-34 defeat at the Cure Bowl.
That disappointing ending has left the Chants hungry for more success.
“We're not worried about the expectations,” defensive tackle C.J. Brewer said. “We're just trying to go out there and have fun and play football. We're ready to go.”
Coach Brent Thompson said so are his Bulldogs.
The Citadel played four games in the fall — three of them money games at South Florida, Clemson and Army — and then eight games in the spring to finish 2-10.
Despite the short break, Thompson said his club is eager for the challenge of going against the rising Chanticleers.
Thompson knew Chadwell, in his would have Coastal Carolina playing at high level in just his third season in charge.
“All three of the teams he's taken (to the top), he's taken them pretty quickly,” Thompson said.
Some other things to watch when The Citadel plays Coastal Carolina:
FORGET LAST YEAR
Coastal's Chadwell said he's discussed putting last year in the past and put together an even better effort in 2021. Chadwell said the attention this season is from his team's performance a season ago. Still, it won't make or break the program this season.
“Last year's over,” he said. “We need to enjoy this journey.”
Chadwell believes his starting quarterback, Grayson McCall, can reach an even more successful level of play this season. McCall is a redshirt sophomore who was named the Sun Belt offensive player of the year, throwing for 2,488 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Chadwell said McCall is still young and improving, pointing out that “he's only played 12 games."
The Citadel loves its running game. Last season, the Bulldogs finished fourth in the Football Championship Subdivision with more than 242 yards rushing. The attack is relentless and something teams don't see very often. Coastal defensive tackle C.J. Brewer said he and his defensive teammates have to stay disciplined on third downs to get The Citadel off the field.
WHAT DAY IS THIS?
Coastal Carolina will play at least half its games on days other than Saturday day. Following this week's contest, they've got a Friday home game with Kansas. A game with Appalachian State on a Wednesday before two more Thursday games and a Friday game. Chadwell said Coastal will have to stay flexible on its practice routine to keep pace.
Citadel of the FCS has a history of taking down the big boys of the FBS. While the most noteworthy win may have been a 10-3 win at Arkansas in 1992 in the season-opener that led to Razorbacks' coaching change the next day, the Bulldogs won at South Carolina in 2015 and at Georgia Tech in 2019.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25