49er Football: Offseason Report

Niners hope offseason changes lead to more success

| August 20, 2017

Quarterback Hasaan Klugh looks for a receiver during the Spring Game. Photo by Chris Crews

A lot of things have changed around the Judy Rose Football Center, and fans, players and coaches alike are hoping that these adjustments will lead to more wins.

Out With the Old, In With the New

At the conclusion of the 49ers’ 4-8 season, many questions surrounded the players. The inaugural 2012 redshirt senior class, the first official class of recruits who stepped on campus, finally graduated, and the coaching staff was left to figure how to replace them. This was no easy task, however.

Among the seniors who graduated were linebacker Nick Cook, defensive lineman Brandon Banks, running back Kalif Phillips, receiver Austin Duke, and defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi. Cook was one of the defensive anchors, and he finished the 2016 season with 108 total tackles. Meanwhile, the other four players looked to continue their careers in the NFL. Ogunjobi, the heart and soul of the young 49ers’ program, was drafted with the first pick in the third round to the Cleveland Browns, becoming the first 49er to ever be selected in the draft. He’s slated to become a key member of the Browns’ defense, who also selected Myles Garrett of Texas A&M and Jabril Peppers of Michigan to lead off their picks.

Soon after, Banks signed a free agent deal with the Washington Redskins; Phillips, the 49ers’ all-time leader in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, signed a free agent deal with the Green Bay Packers, while Duke– who went to high school in Charlotte and played four years as a Niner– signed a deal to play for the hometown Carolina Panthers.

However, the seniors weren’t the only people leaving the program. The Niners also made a few moves on the coaching staff. Assistant head coach Dean Hood resigned in February to accept a special teams coaching job at Kentucky. Wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Joe Tereshinski resigned days later, and defensive line coach Aaron Curry resigned in the summer. Charlotte coach Brad Lambert brought in Greg Adkins as the offensive line coach, Keith Henry as running backs coach, and promoted Charlie Skalaski as the special teams coordinator.

Needless to say, Charlotte’s senior class will be the most difficult one to replace. In order to assuage the loss of talent, Lambert and his staff hit the recruiting trail hard and signed 22 total prospects in the offseason. While last year the program signed four-star recruit Robert Washington, Charlotte was able to sign five three-star recruits to highlight this year’s class.

The three-star recruits include tailback Kameron Duncan, receivers Cameron Bent and Victor Tucker, offensive lineman D’mmitri Emmanuel, and defensive lineman Chrishawn Wilson. Duncan rushed for 1,332 yards and averaged 148 yards per game as a senior in Florida. Tucker, another signee from Florida, totaled 41 receptions and eight touchdowns for 569 yards as a senior, and Wilson had 33 tackles (including 12 sacks) in his final season in Florence, South Carolina.

What to Look Forward To

The Niners will lean heavily on its offensive playmakers this season. After the team started 1-4, redshirt junior quarterback Hasaan Klugh was inserted into the lineup and finished the year with 1,356 passing yards and 10 touchdowns to three interceptions. A mobile quarterback, Klugh was also the third leading rusher for Charlotte, as he picked up 426 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Washington will likely be the main tailback this season, as he rushed for 489 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman.

Also, the receiving core will need to have a huge year for Charlotte. Now that Duke is gone, the torch has been passed to senior T.L. Ford II, who caught 36 passes for 430 yards and four touchdowns, and Trent Bostick, a senior who redshirted last year due to injury. Bostick caught 32 passes for 457 yards and three scores in 2015. The two will play opposite of Workpe Kofa, a redshirt junior who caught 27 passes for 329 yards and five touchdowns last season.

On defense, Karrington King, Ed Rolle, and Ben DeLuca will look to lead the charge. King and DeLuca tallied 73 and 68 tackles respectively, which leads all defensive returners. DeLuca also picked off two passes. Rolle, a junior, racked up 49 tackles to go with three interceptions last season and has a real nose for the ball. In addition, redshirt sophomore linebacker Tyriq Harris tallied 49 tackles and two sacks, and redshirt sophomore AJ McDonald had 45 tackles. Anthony Covington, a redshirt senior defensive back, had 37 tackles and one pick last year to round out the Charlotte defense.

Though the defense will be young, the underclassmen will be counted on to make big plays as the season rolls along. They’ll have their work cut out for them as they look to fill the big shoes left by Cook, Banks and Ogunjobi. Despite the youth, the Niners are hoping to secure their first bowl game this season. Last year, the team staged an amazing comeback against Middle Tennessee on Senior Day that came up just short, as they fell 38-31. A win would’ve given them five on the season and a chance to get their sixth in their road finale against UTSA.

While the loss was gut-wrenching, the players have used it as motivation, and they’re hoping this young team can fill up the stat sheet– and the stands– on the way to success. The 49ers’ road to a bowl game starts on September 2nd, as they travel to Eastern Michigan. Their first home game is two weeks later, September 16 against the NC A&T State Aggies.

 

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Category:Football, Sports

Zach Timmons Zach Timmons, better known as ZT, is a junior at UNC Charlotte. He is an English major and is also minoring in journalism. In his free time, ZT enjoys writing spoken word poetry, drawing, and making beats.

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Zach Timmons Zach Timmons, better known as ZT, is a junior at UNC Charlotte. He is an English major and is also minoring in journalism. In his free time, ZT enjoys writing spoken word poetry, drawing, and making beats.