CONWAY – Going into this season, the key question was who of the eight players in preseason camp will win the quarterback battle. However, a further look may evoke the more important question, “to whom will that quarterback give the ball?”
Coastal does return some key players at the skill positions, including senior running back Osharmar Abercrombie and senior wide receiver Chris Jones. A further examination of the other running backs and wide receivers will show 17 of the 23 players listed on the fall camp roster at the two positions are either true freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores.
Abercrombie, who has been the primary back-up to All-American De’Angelo Henderson for the last three seasons, missed four games as a junior due to injury, but enters his senior season eighth on the CCU all-time rushing touchdowns list (15), 11th in rushing yards (1,198), 13th in rushing attempts (211) and 15th in points scored (96).
Coastal also returns veteran Marcus Outlow, who sat out last season as a transfer from Boston College. He rushed for nearly 500 yards in 112 carries in two seasons with the Eagles. However, of the 587 rush attempts, only 169 (29 percent) are back this season and only 87 of those 169 carries came from current CCU running backs as Abercrombie had 74, Ra’Quan Bennet had 10 and Marquiese Jones had six.
Redshirt freshmen Alex James and Jacqez Hairston will have to come along quickly in Coastal’s two-back offense to provide quality depth.
“Osharmar is the leader and he is our guy,” said running backs coach Bill Durkin. “He is everything we have grown to expect from his four years here. He has waited his turn, knows the offense and we are excited for him.
“We like the experience Marcus has and he has grabbed the offense well,” Durkin added. “Alex stood out last fall working on the scout team and hope he poses the same problems to opponents this fall. Ra’Quan has done a nice job and the rest need to emerge.”
2017 CCU RUNNING BACKS
Osharmar Abercrombie Senior
Marcus Outlow Junior
Marquiese Jones Junior
Ra’Quan Bennett Sophomore
Jacqez Hairston Redshirt Freshman
Alex James Redshirt Freshman
Anthony McAfee Freshman
Baden Pinson Freshman
Chris Jones, like Abercrombie, will have a chance to leave a permanent place in the CCU record books. Jones ranks 11th among active NCAA Division I (FBS and FCS) players with a career punt return average of 11.9 and he ranks second on the CCU all-time lists for both punt return yards (498) and punt returns (42). Jones is just the ninth Chanticleer to reach 1,000 career receiving yards (1,024) and ranks among the CCU career leaders in yards per reception (third; 16.52), TD receptions (10th; 6) and receptions (15th; 62).
Of the 127 receptions by a Chanticleer last season, Jones accounted for 22 – second on the squad and one of four Chants with double-digit receptions – while Omar Black had six, Gary Bradshaw six, Ky’Jon Tyler five and Malcolm Williams two.
A trio of highly-touted redshirt freshmen – Larry Collins Jr., Jay King II and T’Qele Holmes – each showed flashes last season working with the practice squad. The three also had a good spring and a good off season in the weight room.
“Chis Jones and Omar Black have stood out for us so far,” said wide receivers coach Willy Korn. “Chris has obviously made a lot of plays over his career and he is such a crafty route-runner. Omar has done a good job being the vocal leader. The thing I’m most excited about is how the older guys have taken ownership, investing in each other and they are doing a great job taking in the younger guys.
“The younger guys have made great strides from spring to now,” Korn added. “When we first installed the offense in the spring, there were a lot of missed assignments. They worked hard this summer learning playbook so there much fewer missed assignments now. I’ve been really impressed how dedicated this group is.”
These neophytes may not be game-ready today, but luckily Coastal has 26 more practices before opening the 2017 season versus UMass (Sept. 2 and 7 pm) in CCU’s first game as an NCAA Division I FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) program.
2017 CCU WIDE RECEIVERS
Gary Bradshaw Senior
Chris Jones Senior
Omar Black Junior
Malcolm Williams Junior
Josh Anderson Sophomore
Antawn Chandler Sophomore
Zavier Jones Sophomore
Kendrick Lowery Sophomore
Ky’Jon Tyler Sophomore
Charles Frederick Redshirt Sophomore
Larry Collins Jr. Redshirt Freshman
Jay King II Redshirt Freshman
T’Qele Holmes Redshirt Freshman
Tre’ High Freshman
Jeremiah Miller Freshman