In 2018, the Charlotte 49ers went 5-7, mediocre right? Not for the Niners, who had their best season at the FBS level last year. Yet, the powers at be in northeast Charlotte, North Carolina decided it was time for a coaching change, their first since joining the FBS. Brad Lambert was fired, and 34-year-old and former Austin Peay coach Will Healy will replace him. Healy will inherit one of the worst programs in the FBS in the 49ers, but one with so much potential.
It all starts with location. Charlotte, North Carolina, the Queen City. From the quirky “Uptown” area, to Carowinds, to the U.S. National Whitewater Center, Charlotte’s got a lot to do. Charlotte also has a lot of another commodity: recruits. Will Healy isn’t going to have an easy job convincing local blue-chippers to stay home, but the University has a lot to offer, starting with an almost entirely new campus.
“Almost the entire campus has been built within the past 20 years,” Charlotte student Vishnu Iyengar said.
Charlotte also has the 6 year old Jerry Richardson Stadium to offer, and while it may be small, future expansions will allow the stadium to hold up to 40,000 spectators.
But, above all else, the key to the 49ers future potential is redshirt sophomore quarterback Chris Reynolds. Chris Reynolds only started 6 games in 2018 due to an ankle injury, but when he was healthy he flashed a lot of potential. His best game came in a loss at UMass in which he completed 23-34 passes while tossing for 283 yards and 3 scores. Reynolds will have receivers Rico Arnold and Victor Tucker back in 2019, not to mention tailback Benny LeMay, who rushed for a quiet 1,228 yards last season. LeMay has been the fuel to this offenses fire over his 3 seasons in Charlotte, and that should continue in 2019.
Now, let’s look at the defense. A year ago the Niners had one of the best rushing defenses in the Group of 5. They were ranked 19th in rush defense efficiency. Most of the key contributors including end Alex Highsmith, linebacker Jeff Gemmell, safety Ben DeLuca, and corner Nafees Lyon all return, and will all be seniors, most of the defense will be seniors. When asked to defend the pass in 2018, Charlotte was horrific, but Tennessee transfer Marquill Osborne might help that.
The 49ers aren’t going to compete for a New Years Six bid, and they probably won’t compete for a Conference USA championship, but a bowl bid is not out of the question for Will Healy’s club, and C-USA player of the year? It might just be Chris Reynolds. There’s something brewing in Charlotte.