Coastal Carolina hit the practice field for the first of 15 spring workouts on Wednesday night. CCU will take a week off in mid-March for spring break and the Spring Game is set for 12 noon on April 2nd at Brooks Stadium.
WPDE Sports Director Rich Chrampanis is the host of the David Bennett Show and breaks down position by position on some of the things to look out for in spring practice:
Key loss: Zach MacDowall
This is Aramis Hillary's team now. Hillary will get a lot of the attention during the spring as he takes over the reins of the offense from Zach MacDowall. Cody Craig and Logan Hall will get plenty of work. Alex Ross, a true freshman from Georgia, will not arrive on campus until the summer. The coaching staff thinks highly enough of him to think that he could push Hillary and Craig in the battle for starter, but if Hillary impresses, you should see him redshirted.
Key losses: Eric O'Neal, Racheed Gause
With Eric O'Neal gone, the job is open for featured back. Aaron Jones came on strong late in his freshman season and has the potential to be a 1,000 yard rusher. It will be interesting to see if he can carry over from his solid debut. Coastal has been doing it by committee in the backfield and that should continue with Jones and Marcus Whitener. Two backs who need to bounce back from injuries are Jeremy Height and Travis Small. Small, the Cheraw native and WPDE All-Zoner, is still waiting to breakout and contribute. Another name to watch is Bucky Kennedy, a redshirt freshman from the Citadel.
Key losses: Brandon Whitley, Marquel Willis
I think that DeMario Bennett (South Carolina transfer) comes in with a lot of hype and CCU fans should keep a close eye on him in spring to see if he matches the accolades. From what I hear from the players, he should be a major contributor on offense pairing with sophomore to be Matt Hazel as two deep threats. I think that Akeem Wesley could be a breakthrough star in 2011. The receiving corps also gets a big boost with the return of Chris Pressley who had to sit out with academic problems last season.
Two NFL-possible talents are one of the big strengths of this team. David Duran and Jamie Childers should continue to be a focal point of the CCU offense.
Key loss: Seth Smalls
Four starters are back: LT Jamey Cheatwood, C Pat Williams, RG Tim Franklin, RT Bryan Brooks. This group gelled together well last season with Franklin playing a jack of all trades and moving to multiple positions when injuries came up. Clemson transfer Kenneth Page will try and impress along with Carolina Forest's Drew Herring. Two redshirt freshman (Mo Ashley and Chad Hamilton) are expected to be fixtures on the line for the next four years. I'll be interested to see how Ashley and Hamilton fare this spring and if they can be counted on to be in the rotation this September.
Key losses: Rob Balkunas, Kent Harper
The biggest loss of 2010 was Quinton Davis who will continue to mend from ankle surgery suffered in a loss to Georgia Southern. Davis is one of the most respected players on the CCU defense. A good group is back highlighted by Hofstra transfers Chris Thomas and Johnnie Hartsfield. Jamel Davis and Dominique Whiteside will be two keys at defensive end. On the inside, Chad McField should be a starter and it will be interesting to see who can emerge and impress from a group that includes Jeremy Harden, Brooks Barbaree, and Jeffery Salley
Key loss: EJ Brown, Chris Walls, Carlton Mitchell
I think without a doubt, this is Coastal's deepest and most talented group from top to bottom. Andrae Jacobs has to keep his high motor running. Desmond Stewart and Brian Harrison are rising seniors. The group will be sparked by the return from Derrick Frasier who missed 2010 due to academics. Mike McClure could have been redshirted last year, but was too valuable to keep off the field. McClure has All-Big South potential without a doubt.
Key loss: Tarvorris Jolly
Josh Norman didn't have the numbers that he had in his sophomore campaign, but he is the real deal. I think that Norman has equal value off the field. He's respected by all of his teammates and his leadership will be critical to keeping team chemistry. Tre Henderson joins him on the other corner. The rest of the group is young including redshirt freshmen Marcellus Hunter and Chris Carter (NC State transfer). Dontavious Johnson, another Hofstra transfer, will be someone to watch to see if he should earn time on the field in 2011.
Key losses: Dominique Davenport, Keon Cunningham
Marcus Lott is one of the best complete football players on the team. Phillip George and Johnnie Houston are going to get the chance to step in to the big losses of Ra-Ra and Keon and have a much more significant role in 2011. This is the one position where true freshman coming in this summer could get a chance to play right away.
Key losses: Ben Erdman, Justin Durham, Danny Bonifas
Wholesale changes here with Grant Clayton set to become the kicker although he'll miss spring workouts as he recovers from injury. Austin Cain will try and take over the punting duties and Manning native Shane Ballard is the new long snapper.
David Bennett points out that jobs will not be won during the spring, but the depth chart will get set heading into summer training camp.