CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Big South Conference opener at Monmouth is on the horizon next Saturday but much of Charleston Southern's attention this week was directed inward. The Bucs conducted practice from Monday through Thursday following last Saturday's loss at third-ranked Florida State. CSU will take a break from football this weekend before ramping up to start defense of its 2015 league title.
An open date and a conference game in the season's first month are not common occurrences but CSU head coach Jamey Chadwell hopes both are coming at an opportune time.
"This open week has been good for us in a lot of ways," Chadwell said. "We needed to catch up on a few things but really it was more of a mental break from the football grind. We've had some productive practices."
"You usually don't like open weeks early because you're trying to get in a rhythm but with the people we've played the other things we've had to deal with, it came in at the right time. It's just been good for us to sort of re-energize a little bit and get ready to start afresh, to start anew; especially with it being a conference game."
Bright spots at Florida State
The execution against Florida State was not to the level Chadwell and company expect but CSU did emerge with several takeaways. One of the most prominent was the solid play of an offensive line with four first-time starters. Left guard TJ Haney, center Caleb Brannon, right guard Zack Evans and right tackle Alex Thompson helped CSU produce 294 yards of total offense. The Bucs outgained the Seminoles 92-60 in the fourth quarter and were nearly even (166-184) in total yardage after halftime.
Redshirt freshman Chanin Hamilton found some space to run behind that offensive line, finishing with a team-high 53 yards on nine carries in his first career start.
Junior quarterback Robert Mitchell received most of the reps behind center and showed flashes of his potential. Mitchell threw for 142 yards and a touchdown and carried 16 times for 23 yards. He ripped off several first down runs and got the ball in the hands of CSU's backs in the option game in the second half.
Defensively, stalwart Solomon Brown played like he belonged, recording nine tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and a near-interception. Anthony Ellis was his typical disruptive force up front and Mike Taylor aided the defensive line with two tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble.
Redshirt senior Seth Harrelson, a former walk-on, excelled in his first start. Harrelson notched a career-high six tackles and dropped back into coverage to pick off FSU's Deondre Francois late in the first half.
Early scout on Monmouth
Monmouth is off to a 2-0 start with road wins over Lehigh and Delaware State. The Hawks upended Lehigh – picked to finish third in the Patriot League – 23-21 before rolling over Delaware State, 34-20, last Saturday. Monmouth is at Kent State, an FBS foe from the MAC, this Saturday.
Senior running back Lavon Chaney gives Monmouth one of the Big South's more experience ball carriers and sophomores Cody Williams (QB) and Reggie White, Jr. (WR) are building off the connection they developed a year ago.
Monmouth finished third in the Big South in 2015, compiling a 3-3 mark highlighted by a victory over nationally ranked Liberty. Coach Kevin Callahan's team also pushed top-ranked Coastal Carolina to the finish in a 23-20 loss.
CSU has dominated its first two meetings with Monmouth, outscoring the Hawks 64-7 while yielding only 227 yards. The Bucs pitched a shutout on cold, rainy, windy November day in New Jersey in 2014.