CHARLESTON, S.C. - The pads were strapped on for the first time this week as Charleston Southern football continued fall camp in preparation for the 2018 season opener on September 1 at Florida. The linebackers took center stage with a number of key plays over the first two days of full workouts as the positional preview focuses on the group Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Zane Vance calls the "quarterback" of the defense.
Projected Starters (Based on Preseason Two-Deep): J.D. Sosebee, Edward King, Craig Johnson
Other Returners: Jonathan Earl, Tah'shim Knight, Nick Salley, Tyrel Smith, Kyle Syvarth, Stefan Williams
Lost: Bobby Ruff, Demarius Alexander, Zane Cruz, Landon Sayegh
Additions/Newcomers: Austin Holt, Nick Hughes, Justin McIntire, Aquantis Sajna, Garrett Sayegh
Three Things to Watch
Sosebee drawing Preseason All-Conference hype
J.D. Sosebee returns for his redshirt junior year with the linebacker corps and is the lone holdover from the starting lineup in the 2018 season. The Gainesville, Ga. native burst onto the scene in his sophomore year on his way to finishing fifth in the Big South with a team-high 81 tackles, as well as eighth in the Big South with 8.0 tackles for loss. Among his highlights this past season includes three games with 10 or more tackles, as well as a 60-yard scoop and score on a fumble against Point. Sosebee returns as a veteran presence on the field for the Bucs and will be counted on by Coach Vance to build off a season that saw the 6-1 athlete earn Second Team All-Conference recognition in 2017. Sosebee has posted a strong camp thus far and will be ready for Saturday's scrimmage with the Bucs' first-team defense.
Enter the King
A strong presence up the middle has made the vaunted Blue Swarm defense one of FCS' best over the last five seasons. The Bucs will be looking for someone to step up and lead the change again this season with the loss of All-Conference performer Zane Cruz. Edward King will be given the first chance to take over the role after coming back from a season-ending injury early in the 2017 fall campaign. The redshirt sophomore has impressed with his speed and play-making ability in the middle of the field and shined in his action last season with eight tackles and a half tackle for loss in the season opener at Mississippi State. He looks to make strides this year and lead the point of attack for the Bucs in Vance's system.
Hungry and Ready for the Opportunity
Along with the loss of Cruz, the Bucs were hit hard at the linebacker position with key contributors Bobby Ruff, Landon Sayegh, and Demarius Alexander all exhausting their eligibility in 2017. Their loss though brings about a youth movement in the middle for the Bucs led by redshirt junior Craig Johnson, as well as returners Stefan Williams, Jonathan Earl, and Kyle Syvarth. Johnson brings an explosive amount of athletic potential on the outside and will look to turn his prowess on the special teams into a full-time role on the defensive side of the ball. Williams and Syvarth are both battling back from 2017 injuries, but are expected to provide solid play and leadership in the position, while Earl is a downhill force to be reckoned with. Every position is open for competition and multiple athletes are expected to battle for playing time.
Player Spotlight – J.D. Sosebee
92 – Combined tackles the Bucs will have to replace following the graduation of starters Bobby Ruff and Zane Cruz.
81 – Tackles by J.D. Sosebee, the 2017 Bucs' tackling leader who returns for the 2018 season.
18 – Combined career starts by CSU's returning linebackers with Sosebee (16) and Craig Johnson (2). The duo are the only returning linebackers with starting experience.
Charleston Southern takes the field for the first scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday morning. The scrimmage is set to start at 9 a.m.