CHARLESTON, S.C. – Year four of the Jamey Chadwell era of Charleston Southern Football is officially underway. CSU hit the practice field for the first of 23 times in fall camp on Monday night following an hour-long lightning delay.
Lightning pushed the start of practice back to 9 p.m. but did not dampen the spirits of a roster intent on building off a 2015 season that ranks as the best in the program's 25-year history. CSU was selected as Big South Conference preseason favorite last week and is receiving unprecedented national hype but Chadwell is confident his group is focused on the process in 2016.
"It'll obviously be unique because since I've been here and really for a long time we've been fighting for respect here," Chadwell said. "At least on the outside and in our conference, you feel like you have it so I can't go to that well too hard again. I think what we've tried to get this team to realize is, 'you know, you had one year. You had some pretty good years but only one year did you have anything to show for it.'"
"There's a lot of one-hit wonders out there," Chadwell continued. "To be a great team, you can have a great year. To be a great program, you have to show consistency and especially now that you're supposed to be the team."
CSU worked out in shorts and helmets for about an hour and a half and will do so again tomorrow before moving to shells on Wednesday. The Bucs' first full contact practice is set for Friday at 7:45 p.m.
One player that's certainly eager to put the pads on is senior safety D.J. Curl. Curl was selected as one of four team captains when the Bucs convened for camp on Sunday night, along with Erik Austell, Corbin Jackson and Jackson Williamson.
"I'm pretty pumped to get out here and kind of put the rubber to the road," said Curl, who finished fifth on the team with 50 tackles a year ago. "It feels like we've been doing a lot of stuff that's not football, strength and conditioning-wise, for a long time and we're ready to get out there on the field. More so than anything, from a defensive standpoint, I think we're ready to get out there and get in pads."
Curl is one of several vocal leaders for a CSU team that once again had close to 100 percent participation in its summer weight program. Attitude is not lacking as CSU builds toward its season-opening clash at five-time defending FCS national champion, North Dakota State.
"We are riled up," Curl said. "We've got a bunch of kids who are ready to go up to that dome and just make a name for ourselves and prove we belong. As a captain and a leader on this team, I want to push the guys and make sure we still have that chip on our shoulder and carry it around. More than anything, more than our opponent, we're just worried about continuing to play with that edge."
Copeland looking to take reins of offense
Redshirt junior Kyle Copeland has the edge for the starting quarterback job as fall camp begins. Copeland played extensively in 2013 and 2015 but has yet to serve as the primary starter. He has performed well on big stages, particularly in the 2013 win over No. 3 Coastal Carolina and last year's FCS Playoff quarterfinal loss to No. 1 Jacksonville State. Copeland has worked hard to master the offense, with junior Robert Mitchell and redshirt freshman London Johnson also vying for playing time.
"I just spent a lot of extra time this summer in the playbook, watching film and seeing the 'why's' of everything," Copeland said. "I've tried to get a full grasp of what I'm supposed to do and what everyone's supposed to do so I'm not thinking out there, I'm just playing."
"We have a really good group of guys that understand what we're trying to accomplish and what we want to do," Copeland continued. "I think overall, regardless of who it (first opponent) might be we're going to show up every day to prepare because we understand what's at stake this year and what we want to accomplish."