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Charlotte didn’t go where it wanted to last year. After starting with two wins, the 49ers dropped their next 10 and lost all but two conference games by double digits. Needless to say, it wasn’t a fun season. With a decent amount of returning starters, they’ll look to get back to competing and maybe add a win or two to their record.
The big problem last year for Charlotte was at quarterback where their main starter finished with one touchdown and 10 interceptions. In all, their QBs combined for 12 TDs and 23 INTs, possibly one of the worst rates in the nation. With that, the competition was between a couple transfers and Brooks Barden, who played some last year. Kevin Olsen, formerly of Miami, ended up winning the job in the spring, but by no means has the position locked down.
Even with a tough task ahead of him, Olsen has pieces around him to be semi-successful. Receivers Austin Duke (53 receptions, 534 yards, 5 TDs), Trent Bostick (33 receptions, 472 yards, 3 TDs) and T.L. Ford (247 yards) all return to help out. Bostick and Duke are both seniors. Kalif Phillips will again man the backfield after going for 961 yards and five touchdowns last year. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry as well, as the 49ers actually finished sixth in C-USA in rushing yards per game.
They should be able to keep up that total with four returning offensive linemen, including sophomore guard Nate Davis and three seniors. Charlotte averaged 17.5 points per game last year and with a little more consistency and less turnovers, could easily boost that number.
The defensive side is another huge question after the 49ers gave up 36.3 points per game. Giving up 73 points to Middle Tennessee in their first conference game last year was a bad sign. The line has the most hope with every relevant starter returning. All-conference senior Larry Ogunjobi returns at tackle. Ogunjobi has started every game in Charlotte football history if that says anything about how young the program is.
Inside linebacker Nick Cook led the team in tackles last year and he’s back, joined by outside rusher Daquan Lucas. Corner is in a decent situation with two seniors manning those positions, although safety has questions with inexperience. That said, with how they looked last year, Charlotte’s defense has plenty of questions at every position.
Charlotte’s football program is still young and this will be the first year that they’ll actually be eligible for a bowl with the current seniors there from the start. Getting there won’t be easy, but the 49ers again have two winnable non-conference games with Elon and Eastern Michigan on the slate. Finding that first C-USA win will be more important, though. Opportunities include home games against Old Dominion, FIU and Rice. Getting a road win may be possible as well with trips to FAU and UTSA.
Charlotte will have its chances to pick up conference wins, but still have some ways to go. All of that will depend on how quarterback plays out and if the defense can improve. Otherwise, having 11 more interceptions than touchdowns at quarterback won’t result in many wins.
2016 Charlotte 49ers Football Schedule
Sept. 1 at Louisville
Sept. 10 vs. Elon
Sept. 17 vs. Eastern Michigan
Sept. 24 at Temple
Oct. 1 vs. Old Dominion
Oct. 8 at Florida Atlantic
Oct. 15 vs. Florida International
Oct. 22 at Marshall
Nov. 5 at Southern Miss
Nov. 12 vs. Rice
Nov. 19 vs. Middle Tennessee
Nov. 26 at UTSA
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