Charleston Southern’s football team was projected to finish third in the conference at the annual Big South Media Day on July 23.

The Buccaneers embark upon a new journey this fall with new coach Autry Denson, a former Notre Dame and NFL running back, at the helm. The team’s first practice is slated for Friday, Aug. 2.

The preseason plan is down on paper and ready to go.

“Everything is scripted,” Denson said. “I try to adopt the NFL model. We pretty much have everything laid out. We’ll have some tweaks and adjustments but my background is engineering so I’m a systems-type person. Everything is scripted. It’s just a matter of going out and doing it.”

Denson’s squad has a wide-open quarterback race as it looks to find a point man for its move from a run-heavy offense to a wide-open attack.

The two returners with any quarterback experience, redshirt sophomore Jack Chambers and sophomore Christian Reid, were backups a year ago. They combined to go 24 of 54 for 359 yards.

The Bucs return leading rusher Terrence Wilson (540 yds, 6 TDs), running back Ronnie Harris (336 yards) and senior wide receiver Kameron Brown, who led the team in 2016 and 2017 before missing most of 2018 with an injury. He has 56 career grabs for more than 1,100 yards.

Senior guards Zack Evans and Stephen Haralambis are returning starters up front.

Defensively, three of the top seven tacklers return in senior linebacker J.D. Sosebee (72 tackles, 6.5 TFL), redshirt junior linebacker Edward King (43 tackles, 5.5 TFL) and junior linebacker Kyle Syvarth (38 tackles). Senior defensive end Nick Salley (34 tackles) and senior defensive lineman Jon Pohauhau (28 tackles) are additional returners.

“Our biggest opponent is us,” Denson said. “We have to first beat us. We’re going to break it down to one-game seasons and we’ll give everything we have to that week. We’ll go out and give a God-honoring effort with a God-honoring attitude and when the dust settles we’ll see what the score is.”

Defending Big South champion Kennesaw State, which advanced to the FCS Playoff quarterfinals in 2018, was chosen as the league favorite. The Owls received 14 of 20 first-place votes in the poll conducted by the league’s head coaches and a media panel.

Monmouth was runner-up, garnering five first-place votes.

Charleston Southern had the other first-place vote and came in ahead of Campbell, Gardner-Webb, Hampton and Presbyterian.

North Alabama is not included in the poll because it is not eligible for the conference title.

Charleston Southern opens the season and Denson era at Furman on Aug. 31 (1 p.m.) and travels to South Carolina on Sept. 7 for a Noon kickoff.

The home opener is at 6 p.m. on Sept. 14 against North Carolina A&T.

Charleston Southern won the league crown in 2016 but was just 11-11 overall and 6-4 in Big South games the last two seasons under Mark Tucker.

The Bucs were 5-6 and 3-2 in 2018.

“I just tell them we don’t have to be the best team in the country, we just have to be the best team in the stadium,” Denson said.

“We’re constantly trying to push and challenge guys to be in a position to where you just make one more play. That’s how you win football games.”

All-Conference

Redshirt senior linebacker J.D. Sosebee, redshirt senior offensive lineman Zack Evans and redshirt junior long snapper Ethan Ray were named to the Big South’s preseason all-conference team.

Redshirt senior punter Kyle Reighard was an honorable mention selection.

Sosebee was the conference’s sixth leading tackler among linebackers in 2018, earning all-conference honors, and Evans started most of his 11 games at a guard spot.

Ray was a second-team all-conference pick in 2018, averaging a 0.72 snap time and snap-to-kick averages of 2.06. Reighard was second in the conference last season with a 40.9 average.

Fan Fest

Charleston Southern will kick off the 2019-20 season with the third annual Fan Fest, which is set for Saturday, Aug. 24 at the Whitfield Stadium Center running from 10 a.m. until Noon.

Students, alumni, and fans are invited to attend the free event where they can meet the CSU football team and all other fall sports squads, pick up a poster, meet game day sponsors, learn fan chants and more.

Watching CSU

All 11 Charleston Southern football games will be broadcast this fall, including one on the SEC Network and at least three on ESPN3.

The others are on ESPN+, a subscription service ($4.99 per month) and the exclusive streaming home of Big South Network productions.

Broadcasts broken down by network below:

SEC Network

Sept. 7 –at South Carolina, Noon

ESPN3

Aug. 31 – at Furman, 1 p.m.

Oct. 12 – at Kennesaw State, 3 p.m.

Nov. 9 – vs. Hampton, 6 p.m.

ESPN+

Sept. 14 – vs. North Carolina A&T, 6 p.m.

Oct. 5 – vs. Savannah State, 6 p.m.

Oct. 19 – at North Alabama, 7 p.m.

Oct. 26 – vs. Monmouth, 6 p.m.

Nov. 2 – at Gardner-Webb, 1:30 p.m.

Nov. 16 – at Presbyterian, 1 p.m.

TBD

Sept. 21– at The Citadel, 6 p.m.