It’s been a little less than a week since the Coastal Carolina football program returned to the field in preparation for the 2020 season.
After going through the stages and phases that came with bringing players back to campus to train for voluntary workouts, the team is making final preparations ahead of the Aug. 7 start of fall camp.
“In a normal year, you are allowed 110 players for fall camp and then you can add players such as walk-ons when school starts,” Coastal football coach Jamey Chadwell said. “With the virus, we are bringing everyone here for fall camp on Aug. 7. There will be an additional 25 to 30 players joining us before camp starts.”
With the South Carolina summer heat blazing and whistles blaring in players' ears, members of the football program are happy to be back on the field with so much uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season.
“It’s awesome,” said senior offensive lineman Trey Carter. “I know it has been mentally hard on a lot of people being away from the team for so long. So, it’s definitely great to see the guys again, get back on the field and see the camaraderie.”
The latest practices at Brooks Stadium are certainly different.
Players and coaches are allowed six hours of meeting times, six hours of walkthrough on the field with a football and eight hours of strength and conditioning.
“We are going about an hour and ten minutes a day with our walkthroughs,” Chadwell said.
The night before a practice, players fill out a symptom check. If a player has any COVID-19 symptoms, he is not allowed to attend practice.
“He will have to quarantine himself and then we will have to determine if he will have to be checked further for potential testing,” Chadwell said.
Upon arrival at practice, players get their temperature checked. Players and coaches must wear masks when inside the training facility and when on the field.
“When we practice, we are keeping consistency with our groups in an effort to avoid cross-contamination,” Chadwell said. “Our guys have to bring their own towels and water bottles and they can’t share them with their teammates.”
Chadwell said his staff and the medical team at Coastal are doing their best to keep certain groups of players, such as the offensive and defensive linemen, together. But they are also adhering to social distancing.
“There are times where the players are closer together, but it’s no longer than 10 minutes,” he said.
With all the policies put forth by the university, the Sun Belt Conference and the NCAA, players have said that these new protocols have made them more aware of the situation and has brought the team closer together.
“We are all holding each other accountable when it comes staying inside and what we do if we go outside,” Carter said.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the upcoming season, the team is still preparing for that first game, whenever it takes place.
“If it’s moved to the spring, then so be it,” Carter said. “Personally, it doesn’t matter to me. I’d love to play to now, a lot of guys on the team would love to play now.”
“We are still preparing and training as if we are going to have a season,” junior quarterback Fred Payton said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we have to be ready and prepared for whatever situation gets placed in front of us.”
With the pandemic forcing the college football landscape into a gray area, there are a lot of items up in the air. With Power Five conferences such as the SEC and Big 12 withholding a decision on the 2020 college football season until later this week, Chadwell gave his thoughts on what the season might look like for the Chants.
“Before you think through [Kansas and South Carolina], you have to see what the Sun Belt says,” he said. “Does the Sun Belt say conference only? Does the Sun Belt say conference only plus whatever? The SEC and Big 12 will make their decisions and we will have to fall in line from there.”
Despite the concerns, Chadwell remains hopeful.
“Everyone wants to try and play as many games as possible,” he said. “It might not be the original schedule, but there might be teams around us that we can pick up and fill in until we get to Sun Belt play. … I think all options are on the table.”
Chadwell believes that a decision regarding the upcoming season will be released “as soon as later this week or early next week.”
Should the game against Kansas on Sep. 26 at Brooks Stadium be canceled, it would be a huge letdown to Chanticleer players, coaches and fans as it would have been the first time that a Power Five program played at Brooks Stadium.
“That would not be ideal,” Carter said. “I would certainly be a little bit upset about it.”
“We want that game to happen to show people that last year wasn’t a fluke,” Payton said. “We beat them for a reason.”
Coastal Carolina defeated Kansas last year 12-7 in Lawrence, making it the first time in program history that the Chanticleers defeated a Power Five program.
The Chanticleers are set to open their season in Columbia against South Carolina on Sep. 5. The Chants' home opener for the 2020 season is scheduled for Sep. 19 against Duquesne at Brooks Stadium in Conway.