A few things have changed for Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell since his team's first national ranking.
There have been many well-wishers and increased media obligations this week, so “I went and got a haircut,” he joked Wednesday. “So that's a benefit as well.”
The Chanticleers (4-0) entered the Top 25 for the first time in program history. They were a Football Championship Subdivision power that routinely made the playoffs before moving to the Sun Belt three seasons ago. The milestone came after defeating their first-ever nationally ranked opponent in then-No. 21 Louisiana-Lafayette, 30-27, l ast Wednesday night.
Chadwell told his players before kickoff that if they took care of business, they would get ranked.
The only way to stay, he counseled them after the victory, “is to keep winning.”
Steady success has long been a trait of the school with an enrollment of about 11,000 students during its relatively short football history. The program began in 2003 and made the FCS playoffs three years later. It received national exposure when it hired former TD Ameritrade CEO Joe Moglia as its head coach in 2012 — and continued winning.
Moglia led the Chants to three Big South Conference titles and four FCS playoff trips, spending much of the 2015 at No. 1 in the FCS rankings as it prepared for competition in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Moglia, who became executive director of football and special adviser to the university president after retiring from coaching in 2018, brought in Chadwell from Big South rival Charleston Southern to inherit the head coach position.
Chadwell said Moglia's principles are still very much a part of Coastal's program and the two chat or text after most games.
“He's a big influence,” Chadwell said.
The Chanticleers (the nickname comes from Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales) appreciate the increased attention and seemed poised for more in a season that began with a 38-23 defeat of Power Five school Kansas.
The goal entering the season, said receiver Jaivon Heiligh, was to win the Sun Belt, despite going a combined 6-18 in the first three seasons as a league member. He said players felt they were close to a breakthrough in years past and are determined not to let this opportunity slip away.
“It's great to be ranked,” he said. “But our end goal is to win a championship and that's what we're focused on.”
That quest continues Saturday when Coastal Carolina (4-0, 2-0 Sun Belt) plays host to Georgia Southern (3-1, 1-1).
Chadwell hadn't seen any ranking hangover at practice after an exciting few days of anticipation before the polls came out. He believes his players have the right mindset in preparing for this week.
Coastal Carolina's hot start offensively is due in large part to the efficient play of freshman quarterback Grayson McCall, who is tied for the Sun Belt lead with 11 touchdown passes and has thrown just one interception.
The Chants are averaging more than 40 points a game.
On defense, Coastal Carolina is led by tackle C.J. Brewer, and linebackers Kelly Silas and Jeffrey Gunter, who are combining for 9.5 sacks this season. The Chanticleers are tied for 12th nationally in sacks per game with Georgia and Iowa State.
Brewer has had several laughs with friends and family texting or calling about Coastal's success. Before always finishes the conversations by reminding them his team intends to play for a championship. The ranking, he said, “is just one of the things that's coming with us."
It's not the first time Coastal Carolina sports has been a national surprise. In 2016, the baseball team won the College World Series.
Chadwell won't aim that high just yet, saying being in the Top 25 is not something he had discussed during offseason Zoom calls or summer workouts.
He understands, too, that with Power Five conferences like the Big Ten and Pac 12 not yet playing, the opportunity was there for Sun Belt teams — Louisiana-Lafayette and Appalachian State have also been ranked this season — to crack the poll.
“It's an awesome deal for us with just the exposure it brings,” Chadwell said. “Hopefully, we can continue to win and maybe we could climb those rankings.”
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