Game Day Central: Charleston Southern at Mississippi State

Game Day Central: Charleston Southern at Mississippi State

Charleston Southern at Mississippi State
Date/Time: Saturday, September 2 at 4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. CT

Tickets: General Admission | Ticket Policy
Location: Starkville, Miss. | Weather | Radar
Stadium: Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field (Cap. 61,337) | Seating Chart
Gates: Open at 1 p.m.
Parking: Parking Map

TV: SEC Network
Audio: Charleston Southern Sports Network (Stretch Internet)
Live Stats:

History: First Meeting

Attending The Game: Please visit the Mississippi State Visiting Guide for all the information you need to know for your visit to Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field | Clear Bag Policy | Tailgating Policy | Code of Conduct

More Information: Follow us on Twitter @CSUSports and @CSUGameDay for up-to-date information on Game Day

Charleston Southern (0-0): Head Coach Mark Tucker | Roster | Schedule | Game Notes

Mississippi State (0-0): Head Coach Dan Mullen | Roster | Schedule | Game Notes


  • No tents, tables or chairs are permitted in parking spaces or on sidewalks.
  • Parking on grass is permitted only in designated areas. (Available to general public)
  • No parking is allowed on parking lot islands, medians, berms, or the shoulders of streets and roads.
  • Parked vehicles must not obstruct traffic or pedestrian access to sidewalks.
  • Parking spaces cannot be saved.
  • Tailgating is permitted only in areas where traffic or parking is not obstructed and tailgaters must follow all picnic zone regulations.
  • Parking areas must be cleared by 7 a.m. the day following the game.
  • Reserved lot passes must be displayed at all times; misuse will result in loss of parking privileges.
  • In reserved parking lots, parking permits are required for all vehicles and a separate permit is required for all trailers. One space per vehicle.
  • REMINDER: Center campus roads close four (4) hours before kickoff (please see this map for road closure information)

Charleston Southern defensive end Anthony Ellis was named the Big South Preseason Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, highlighting six Buccaneers on the conference preseason team as announced at the league's annual Football Media Day in July.

The Bucs were also selected to finish tied for first with Kennesaw State, respectively, in the Big South preseason poll. CSU has won at least a share of the Big South crown in each of the past two seasons and earned the league's automatic bid into the FCS Playoffs in both 2015 and 2016.

Preseason All-Conference
DL Anthony Ellis
LB Solomon Brown
OL Frank Cirone
LB Zane Cruz
DB Shadarius Hopkins
WR Kameron Brown

The Bucs are coming off back-to-back Big South titles and return 16 starters from a 2016 squad that beat three ranked teams en route to a second consecutive playoff appearance. Leading the way on the sidelines in his first season as head coach will be Mark Tucker, CSU's quarterback's coach for the last four years. Tucker has been an integral part of the Bucs' rise to prominence, as the program has rolled up 35 wins since 2013, becoming a fixture in the national polls.

Charleston Southern is ranked in both major national polls once again. The Bucs were ranked No. 14 in the STATS FCS Top 25 Preseason poll, marking the second straight year it was selected.The program has now been ranked in the top 25 for 22 weeks in a row dating back to 2015.

CSU finished No. 14 in the FCS Coaches Poll and No. 15 in the STATS FCS Top 25, marking the second straight year and third time in four years it has concluded the season among the nation's elite. CSU captured its second consecutive Big South Conference championship and FCS playoff berth in 2016. The Bucs beat three ranked teams in the process, including convincing victories over Liberty and Kennesaw State to clinch the league crown. CSU landed a league-high 11 players on the All-Big South teams.

Charleston Southern is still seeking its first win against a full FBS opponent, having beaten both Appalachian State (2013) and Coastal Carolina (2016) during their transitional years from FCS to FBS. The Bucs are 0-18 all-time against FBS opponents since CSU first lined up against South Florida back in the 2002 season.

The Bucs will face another program making the transition to FBS this season as Liberty enters its final season as FCS members. The Flames will be making the transition to FBS as an independent member in the 2018 season.

CSU faces one FBS opponent this season as the Bucs open the year at Mississippi State. It is the sixth time CSU squares off against a SEC team having fallen to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt.

After redshirting in 2015 and biding their time behind the trio of Mike Holloway, Darius Hammond, and Ben Robinson in 2016, sophomores Chanin Hamilton and Ronnie Harris figure to play leading roles in the Bucs' ground game in 2017. Both earned spot playing time last season, with some of their most extensive action coming at Florida State. Hamilton rushed for a career-high 53 yards against the Seminoles, while Harris earned his first career start in that game. Minor injuries kept both backs out of spring practice, making fall camp all the more important as they assume the top spots on the depth chart. Both have showcased the talent that makes the coaching staff optimistic they can pile up yardage.

CSU returns a good deal of experience on the offensive line, led by fifth-year seniors Frank Cirone and Jackson Williamson. Cirone was an All-Big South First Team selection last year and teamed with Erik Austell to give the Bucs a dominant left side of the line. Williamson earned a medical redshirt after missing the final nine games of last season. The center has started all 40 games of his college career to date and has a chance to set the program record in that department.

One year ago at this time, then redshirt-freshman Shane Bucenell entered the preseason as CSU's fourth-string quarterback. The Wesley Chapel, Fla. native worked his way through the ranks and ended the 2016 camp as the backup. Following a season-ending injury to Kyle Copeland, Bucenell took the reins of the program and did not look back in leading the Bucs to a 6-2 mark as a starter, while leading the Big South Conference with 15 touchdown passes.

The mantra for the Bucs' wide receivers is simple according to first-year coach Mike DeTerlizzi, a former player and graduate assistant at CSU. In CSU's variation of the triple option, the role of blocking often takes precedence over catching the football. Although CSU throws it more than many other conventional triple option teams, at least 66 percent of their plays each of the last four years have come on the ground. Following the graduation of seasoned wideouts like Colton Korn, Larry Jones III and Chris Jenkins, the group's ability to embrace the importance of that role will be key if CSU is to stay among the nation's best rushing offenses.

Now redshirt sophomores, Travay Hatten and Qua-Vonn Scott are back at tight end after showing promise during the back half of 2016. Along with John Chiramonte Jr., a transfer from Air Force Prep who participated in spring practice, the Bucs' tight ends, on the whole, are an athletic group capable of catching the football. Hatten caught two touchdown passes last season, while Scott tallied three receptions after working his way into the fold.

Solomon Brown burst onto the scene as Big South Conference Freshman of the Year in 2015 and followed up with a stellar 2016, earning STATS FCS Third Team All-America honors. Brown led CSU with 70 tackles, including a season-high 13 against Wofford in the FCS Playoffs. After two production-packed seasons at 'Bandit,' a defensive end-linebacker hybrid spot, Brown is transitioning to play 'Buc' in CSU's new scheme. His football acumen has made that process relatively seamless as he adds depth to a deep, talented defensive front.

CSU's defensive line has provided the foundation for one of the FCS's best defenses in recent years. One reason for that, in addition to stalwarts like Solomon Brown and Anthony Ellis, is the number of options the Bucs have in the trenches. Johnny Robinson and Noah Oliver are both returning starters at tackle, and others like Mike Taylor, Nick Sands, and Ramel Hambrick-Crawford have contributed meaningfully. CSU has rotated as many as nine different defensive linemen in games during the last two seasons.

The biggest change for CSU defensively is the switch to a base four-man front from the three-man look that had been its primary alignment the last four seasons. Although a new wrinkle, it is hardly foreign to a unit that head coach Mark Tucker estimates played close to 50 percent of its snaps last year in a similar format. The biggest adjustment, according to defensive line coach Josh Cooper, is becoming accustomed to attacking blocks instead of reading them.

The Buccaneers' linebacker depth features a number of players that Vance is high on following the spring schedule and CSU's first two weeks of camp. Redshirt sophomore J.D. Sosebee has been flying to the ball and possesses tremendous speed and footwork that has earned his way into a starting role on the defense. Redshirt junior linebacker Landon Sayegh returns with experience in key situations including Florida State and North Dakota State last season, while Stefan Williams, Edward King, and Craig Johnson have all shined throughout the camp setting. Freshmen Tah'shim Knight, Jonathan Earl, Anton Williams, and Kyle Syvarth all earned accolades in high school and are learning the system and quickly acclimating the collegiate level.

Senior linebacker and Charleston native Bobby Ruff provides another modicum of experience for the Blue Swarm defense this year. Ruff has lined up in 30 games over the last three seasons and made his mark on the defense last season with key games over Monmouth and Wofford. Ruff finished the 2016 season on a high-note with a career-high seven tackles and a half-tackle for loss against the Terriers. His ability to understand the Bucs' coverage schemes and be in the right place at the right time adds another dimension to the talented front seven CSU will bring to bear against its opponents in 2017.

The underclassmen that will start and see major playing time in the back end this year can look to Shadarius Hopkins for guidance. Hopkins started the first three games of his collegiate career as a true freshman in 2015, displaying an excellent grasp of the defensive scheme early. He started all 11 games while helping the Bucs capture their second straight conference title last year. Hopkins should now take over the role of matching up with the opponent's top receiver now that Troy McGowens has graduated.

CSU's coaching staff and other players have had nothing but good things to say about junior Brandon Rowland as he makes the move from corner to strong safety. Rowland played in ten games last season, earning valuable experience due to his aggressive mentality. He had five tackles against Gardner-Webb and came up with an interception in the Bucs' conference clinching win over Kennesaw State.

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