Biff Poggi at 63 is in his first college football head coaching job, and the former associate head coach at Michigan will have quite a challenge. He takes over a Charlotte football program that was picked to finish in last place in the 14-team American Athletic Conference media preseason poll.
A former hedge fund manager, Poggi understands the odds his team faces, but he has jumped into this new job with unbridled enthusiasm, looking to turn around the fortunes from a struggling program.
He has embraced the transfer portal and estimates there will be more than 40 newcomers from other colleges. Poggi knows what the preseason prognosticators are saying, but he has brought energy to the program. Now it’s up to all the newcomers to work together.
Charlotte is among six new teams in the AAC from Conference USA. The 49ers went 3-9 overall and 2-6 in the conference.
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Charlotte Football’s AAC Title Odds
Charlotte has the 14th-best odds to win the AAC at +15000, via BetMGM.
Charlotte Football’s Over/Under Win Total
Charlotte’s win total Over/Under is 3.5, with Under 3.5 at -150 and Over 3.5 at +125.
Charlotte Football’s Schedule
9/2 vs South Carolina State
9/9 at Maryland
9/16 vs Georgia State
9/23 at Florida
9/30 at SMU
10/14 vs Navy
10/21 at East Carolina
10/27 vs FAU
11/4 at Tulsa
11/11 vs Memphis
11/18 vs Rice
11/25 at USF
Bold indicates AAC contests.
Key Charlotte Football Returners
2022 All-Conference USA Honorable Mention
KR Shadrick Byrd
Micah Bowens Is An Intriguing Player For Charlotte’s Offense
While he didn’t join the team until after spring practice, one person who should contribute is quarterback Micah Bowens. He is listed as a redshirt sophomore, but he has yet to take a college snap and is now on his third team. Bowens redshirted in 2020 at Penn State, then transferred to Oklahoma.
He is a dual-threat quarterback, and he’ll face plenty of competition, but sometime during this season Bowens should contribute. Another person battling for the job is senior Jalon Jones, who like many on this roster has had a nomadic career. He spent two seasons at Jackson State, making five starts in 2021 and played last year at Bethune Cookman where he completed 58.6% of his passes for 2,274 yards, 14 touchdowns, and seven interceptions while rushing for 574 yards and five touchdowns.
A major key offensive returner is redshirt junior running back Shadrick Byrd. He led the 49ers in rushing last year with 620 yards and four touchdowns. He is also the leading returning receiver with 21 receptions for 222 yards and a touchdown. Byrd also averaged 20.38 yards on 32 kickoff returns. Redshirt junior Quinton Patten had nine receptions for 88 yards last season and figures to have a much bigger role.
Poggi brought in several new offensive linemen, but two returning starters are junior guard Panda Askew and redshirt sophomore guard Jonny King. Last season, King appeared in nine games with seven starts, five at right guard and two at left guard. Askew appeared in 11 games, making eight starts at left guard.
Charlotte’s Defense Needs Drastic Improvement
Last year, Charlotte allowed 39.4 points per game, which was 129th out of 131 teams nationally. Many reinforcements will come through the transfer portal, including defensive end Eyabi Okie-Anoma, who played in all 15 games for Michigan last season and made two starts. He had 18 tackles, with six tackles for loss, and four sacks. Okie-Anoma could be among the top pass rushers in the AAC.
Both starting defensive tackles return. Junior Dez Morgan started all 12 games and had 30 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. Redshirt junior Jalar Holley, who began his career at Miami, appeared in 11 games last year for Charlotte, making seven starts. He made 38 tackles and 1.5 TFLs.
Redshirt junior linebacker Prince Bemah was the team’s leading tackler last season with 62. He also added five tackles for loss and two sacks. Redshirt junior linebacker Derek Boykins appeared in seven games, with six starts, before being sidelined with a season-ending injury. Boykins recorded 21 tackles.
The lone returning starter in the secondary is redshirt senior safety Wayne Jones. Last year was his first season with Charlotte after spending four years at Kansas State. Jones was Charlotte’s second-leading tackler with 58. He also had two interceptions and two pass breakups.
Charlotte Football Season Prediction
Charlotte obviously won’t win the AAC, but the 49ers will surpass last year’s win total, if only barely. The talent level is much better with all of their transfers, but finding continuity will be the key.
It will be interesting to see what happens at quarterback, with not only Jones and Bowens but true freshman Carson Black and others vying for playing time. Black is a three-star recruit from Nathan Ford High School in Fort Mill, South Carolina.
There is no doubt that Poggi has brought some much-needed enthusiasm to the program, where an estimated 5,250 attended the spring game.
Earning in the neighborhood of four to five wins should be considered successful, especially with how low expectations (outside of the program) are for this year’s 49ers team.