4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE COASTAL CAROLINA DEFENSE
– The defense that struggled so much still needs work. It was among the Sun Belt’s worst overall, it couldn’t come up with takeaways, and it was a soft breeze against the run. A few nice veterans return, and the pass defense wasn’t all that awful, but the front seven has to be far tougher to keep teams from getting easy third-and-short opportunities.
– It stinks to lose top pass rusher Jeffrey Gunter to Syracuse, but Tarron Jackson is an all-star end to start with, and 300-pound former Clemson transfer Sterling Johnson is a veteran presence in the middle. They’ll do their part, but they need the supporting cast to help out. There isn’t a ton of size up front, but there are just enough options to play around with the lineup. The same goes with a linebacking corps that was really, really young and should be a bit better.
– The secondary isn’t exactly starting over, but … with S Jave Brown transferring, it’s starting over. Without much of a pass rush to help the cause, this group was still strong enough to allow just 206 yards per game and keep the big plays to a minimum. Jobs are still open, but junior Chandler Kryst and sophomore Derick Bush are promising options at the corners.