The Forty-Niners, coming off of a frustrating 1-11 season, look to turn a new leaf with “clear eyes and full hearts” as the famous television coach, Eric Taylor would say. With the offseason bringing in a change in coaching staff, Head Coach Brad Lambert has been given an opportunity to reshape the program in his image, and revitalize a winning culture within Niner Nation.
“It’s been good,” said Coach Lambert. “It’s always a worry of yours, but the nice thing about the guys we brought in, you know Chris has been a head coach before at Tulane. Glenn has been a head coach at West Georgia. Shane has been a head coach at Miami (Ohio). So it’s been good for me because they have good ideas, and we can bounce things off each other.”
With key offensive players like Hasaan Klugh, Benny LeMay, and Aaron McAllister returning, much of Charlotte’s running game will remain intact.
Klugh, a redshirt senior, has led the team as starting QB for the last two years. The QB has made up for 19 of the 49ers’ 23 touchdowns this past season, including every single TD in Charlotte’s 25-24 OT win against UAB at Homecoming.
Despite many of these key moments in his career, Hassan Klugh will not be assured of his starting spot, as graduate transfer Evan Sherreffs, and redshirt freshman Chris Reynolds are both talented prospects for Charlotte this coming season.
When it comes to the rest of the 49ers offense, a lot of excitement is present among the team.
“We have a lot of versatility in the backfield, Aaron McAllister is a very fast guy in the back field,” LeMay said. “Cam is so versatile in the open field, so it will be great seeing what those guys do.”
The Niners currently stand 3-2 when it comes to season openers, while the Fordham Rams also stand 3-2 for their last five openers.
The Rams ended their 2017 season standing with a 4-7 record. They started off their season opener in a 6-64 blowout loss against Army in West Point, NY.
With a lopsided box score showing Fordham putting up 240 passing yards compared to Army’s zero, it would seem as if the Rams’ defense had an easy assignment, but the game itself would tell a different tale. Army’s Ahmad Bradshaw and D. Woolfolk would come together to combine for 272 rushing yards themselves. In the end, Army would rush for 513 yards compared to Fordham’s 105.
The rest of the Rams’ season would be a melting pot of triumphs and defeats. The Rams would taste well-earned victories in hard fought battles, such as their 38-31 win over Central Connecticut State University, and suffer crushing blows like their 10-41 loss against Yale University.
The Rams are returning for their 2018 season with 23 seniors, eight being receivers, along with two kickers and a long snapper, which could be very promising for Fordham’s passing and kicking game.
Players to be on the lookout for include senior wide receiver Corey Caddle, who started five games this past season. The young receiver put up 392 yards his junior season, with 11.9 catches and a team leading four scores. Having his senior year interrupted by injury, the receiver is sure to step into his senior year on fire, expecting his role to expand and grow as his confidence does.
Another weapon for Rams to look out for is senior QB Luke Medlock. Appearing in eight games last season, and starting in one behind Kevin Anderson. Medlock was the second highest in passing yard averages with 75 per game.
The Rams have been known for their extensive passing game. In the past they have been led by QB Kevin Anderson who averaged 219 per game. With the graduation of Mr. Anderson, there is sure to be a shift in power which will be seen for the first time on Sept.1 in Niner Nation.
Junior running back Benny LeMay has made his presence felt both on and off the field in his two short years in Niner Nation.
LeMay, a returning starter for the Charlotte 49ers will be serving his team as an on field captain this this coming season. The running back has 907 career rushing yards already, only 93 shy of the 1000 yards club, in his career as a 49er. He is number four all time in rushing yards for Charlotte, ranked ninth in C-USA with a 66.5 rushing average, having played all 11 of the 12 2017 season games, while starting in eight.
“Ben’s a fine, fine football player and we need for him to stay healthy. I like our depth at running back, with him being the lead guy. He’s got a chance to have a really big year for us,” said Coach Lambert.
“We want to be able to run the ball, we want to be able to put it in his hands as many times as we can, the thing that kind of gets over looked with Benny is he’s a really good catcher of the football out of the backfield, so we try to utilize that as much as we can as well, he’s a very skilled guy and we’ve got to utilize him.”
LeMay himself has set some high expectations on both himself and his team this coming season. When asked how the team plans to use last season’s 1-11 record to their advantage, this is what he had to say.
“We’ve definitely got a lot to prove this season. It’s something you definitely don’t want to throw in the trash, but you want to keep it in your rear view mirror. That way you see it everywhere you go, you use that as motivation for the season to come,” said LeMay. “They deserve to see us win.”
Kickoff is at 6 p.m., next Saturday at Jerry Richardson stadium.