Inside The Press Box: Charlotte

Staff Writer
Published: 9/20/2018 11:09:13 AM

Charlotte is off to a surprising 2-1 start to the year after going 1-11 last year. The 49ers defeated Old Dominion 28-25 last Thursday in a game moved up due to Hurricane Florence and also hold a win over Fordham. This is Charlotte’s first true road game of the season.

To learn more about the 49ers, I chatted with David Scott of the Charlotte Observer. Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Q: Hurricane Florence has obviously impacted a lot of teams in the Carolinas, especially on the eastern side of the states. Has it affected Charlotte at all outside of the fact the storm moved up the game last week?

A: The storm brought some flooding to the Charlotte area, but not catastrophic. The 49ers weren't able to practice over the weekend because of heavy rain.

Q: Charlotte is in its sixth year as a football program after starting as an FCS Independent in 2013 and making the FBS transition in 2015. Similar to UMass, the 49ers haven't had much success at the FBS level in the past four years. What were the expectations for the team this season?

A: The expectations are pretty low, based on last year's 1-11 performance. But there's some realistic hope for improvement, based on having 17 starters back and new offensive and defensive coordinators to shake things up. Also, the 49ers have a new athletics director in Mike Hill, who was hired to come in and fix the problems in Charlotte's football and men's basketball programs. So there's little doubt that Brad Lambert is coaching for his job.

Q: What's the biggest difference in the 49ers this year that's allowed them to start off the season well and already double its win total from last year?

A: Offensively, the 49ers have a new quarterback in redshirt freshman Chris Reynolds, who hasn't made many mistakes and is a solid game manager. He doesn't have a very strong arm, but is very accurate. They've also become one of the country's most efficient teams on third-down conversions after being the worst in the nation last season. Defensively, Charlotte has three interceptions – one more it had all of last season. Perhaps the biggest improvement has come in the kicking game, where freshman Jonathan Cruz had made 7 of 8 field goals (long of 54 yards). Three Charlotte kickers combined to miss nine of 13 attempts last season.

Q: The 49ers have a new offensive coordinator (Shane Montgomery) and defensive coordinator (Glenn Spencer) this season. What type of impact has that had on their respective units?

A: Montgomery has installed a pro-style offense that is well-suited for Reynolds (and not for returning starter Hasaan Klugh, who's now the backup). The 49ers now play a more controlled offense, less prone to mistakes. Spencer has switched the defense to a 4-3, but that hasn't yet really translated into much pressure on the quarterback (Charlotte has six sacks, but just one in two games against FBS competition).

Q: Charlotte wins if...

A: Charlotte wins if it can effectively run the ball against what seems to be a UMass team that struggles to stop the run. That would also open up Charlotte's passing game, which while not spectacular, can be effective with Reynolds.

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