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Rebuilding Charleston Southern comes to NC State with plenty to sort out

The Bucs have a lot of young guys who need to grow up fast.

NCAA Football: Charleston Southern at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Charleston Southern, or Charlie So So, as it prefers to be called, is coming off a 4-6 2021 campaign in which it had the unfortunate task of playing a game against Georgia. (Which UGA won 56-7.) The Buccaneers lost a trio of games by one score, including a three-point loss at ECU, so they were far from a complete wreck last season.

This year, though, they returned only four starters on offense and seven on defense—and they have 20 freshmen plus 13 transfers as new additions. So a little over half their scholarship roster is newcomers. (FCS schools are limited to 63 scholarships.) Its a transitory season to be sure, and their 52-38 opening-week loss to Western Carolina doesn’t bode especially well.

On offense, the Bucs are replacing veteran quarterback Jack Chambers, who almost certainly will be lining up against them at some point on Saturday. They also lost quite a bit of production at wide receiver, and among their top eight receivers on their Week 1 depth chart, six were freshmen.

Their top returnee there is Cayden Jordan (6’2, 200), who led the team in both receptions (53) and receiving yards (752) in 2021. He caught two balls for 69 yards in the opener.

Redshirt freshman Seth Anderson (6’0, 178) had a breakout performance against WCU, hauling in eight passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Starting running back TJ Ruff (5’10, 183) had nine grabs out of the backfield.

The new starting quarterback is redshirt freshman Ross Malmgren (6’3, 220), who attempted 15 passes in necessarily limited action during his redshirt season last year. He threw for nearly 400 yards and connected on five touchdown passes against WCU, which ain’t a bad first start.

Ruff came into 2022 with 14 career carries, and added nine more against the Catamounts, finishing with 60 yards on the ground. It’s looking like he’ll be an important dual-threat contributor for CSU this fall.

The Bucs have plugged in a lot of youth on offense, as Jordan is the only upperclassman among the skill position starters. Up front, the Bucs are starting three redshirt sophomore offensive linemen.

The offense’s inexperience wasn’t a problem Week 1, but playing on the road against an FBS team may be a different story.

Defensively, Charleston Southern has three potential all-conference players back in the fold, and all three are graduate seniors. The Bucs defense starts five graduate seniors total, though there is still a lot of youth throughout the two-deep.

CSU’s best player up front is defensive end Anton Williams (6’3, 245), who had five sacks in 2021. He is fourth all-time in sacks at CSU.

Veteran linebacker Garrett Sayegh (5’9, 210) was a major standout a year ago, finishing with 96 tackles, including 9.0 TFLs, to go with two interceptions and three forced fumbles. He had seven tackles in the opener.

The leader of the secondary is safety Hombre Kennedy (5’11, 195), and with a name like that, how could he not be. He had a team-best three interceptions last season, and finished sixth with 43 tackles.

Those guys have got to be productive every week, but they can’t do it alone, and this defense was not very disruptive against WCU—they produced only two tackles for loss, and zero sacks. The Catamounts were effective both on the ground and in the air.

Charleston Southern should get a few positive things out of Saturday, though a win is not going to be one of them. The experience should help them down the line, and if they can get out of town without any serious injuries, that would constitute a solid day for them.