No player’s job will be safe un­der new coach

The Charlotte Observer - - Front Page - BY DAVID SCOTT

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New Char­lotte 49ers foot­ball coach Will Healy talked Xs and Os dur­ing his in­tro­duc­tory news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day at Richard­son Sta­dium.

Healy knows he has an ex­pe­ri­enced team re­turn­ing (12 starters). It’s a group that moved into the mid­dle tier of Con­fer­ence USA by go­ing 5-7 this sea­son, a far cry from the 1-11 ef­fort of 2017.

He’ll have plenty of de­ci­sions to make, and he cau­tioned that no­body’s job is safe.

“Ev­ery­body in this pro­gram has a clean slate,” Healy said. “If you’re an all-con­fer­ence player, that’s awe­some. Be an all-con­fer­ence player for our staff. If you were a bench-warmer and you want to get play­ing time, here’s the per­fect time.”

Healy said he will in­stall a spread-op­tion of­fense and 4-2- 5 de­fense.

The spread op­tion is not too dif­fer­ent from the pro-style at­tack the 49ers used in 2017 un­der firstyear of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Shane Mont­gomery (Healy hasn’t an­nounced any changes to the 49ers staff, which was re­tained after former coach Brad Lam­bert was fired).

The spread op­tion op­er­ates out of the shot­gun and re­lies on smaller, quicker play­ers in the slot po­si­tions, with the quar­ter­back a le­git­i­mate run­ning threat. The pro-style of­fense will typ­i­cally use a tight end in one of those spots, with the quar­ter­back un­der cen­ter more of­ten.

Healy said he will look for a run-pass bal­ance that’s based on yardage, not num­ber of plays. There will be prin­ci­ples of the West Coast of­fense in­cor­po­rated (fo­cus­ing on short passes into the flat and to­ward the side­line).

“I’d like to rush for 250 (yards), pass for 200,” he said. “That could mean we throw 20-25 times a game and run 50 (times).

That’s pretty close to what Healy’s Austin Peay team did last sea­son: The Gover­nors led the Ohio Val­ley Con­fer­ence and were 17th na­tion­ally in rush­ing, av­er­ag­ing 237.5 yards on 44 at­tempts and 181 yards pass­ing on 23.5 at­tempts per game. Two Austin Peay run­ning backs – Ken­tel Wil­liams and quar­ter­back Jeremiah Oatsvall – ranked among the league’s top-10 rush­ers.

Last sea­son, the 49ers av­er­aged 162.6 yards per game rush­ing on 43.8 at­tempts and 180.5 yards pass­ing on 15.2 at­tempts.

That means Healy will want the 49ers to in­crease the num­ber of plays they run, al­though Char­lotte’s av­er­age time of posses­sion of 34 min­utes, 59 sec­onds per game led Con­fer­ence USA.

Will Healy have the right type of play­ers to ac­com­plish that?

Whether Chris Reynolds, last sea­son’s starter be­fore in­jur­ing his an­kle in the 49ers’ sixth game, or Evan Shirreffs best fits that style will be per­haps the big­gest story of Char­lotte’s spring prac­tice. Reynolds is the more mo­bile of the two; Shirreffs has a stronger arm.

Run­ning back Benny Le­May, a sec­ond-team All-Con­fer­ence USA se­lec­tion, rushed for 1,243 yards last sea­son, av­er­ag­ing 5.4 yards per carry. Aaron McAl­lis­ter was a re­li­able backup, rush­ing for 395 yards (4.3 per carry). Calvin Camp and Ishod Fin­ger (un­til he was in­jured) also saw play­ing time.

Healy will be look­ing for more run­ning-back depth on the re­cruit­ing trail.

“We’re go­ing to re­cruit as many run­ning backs as we can, be­cause we want to run the ball more than we throw the foot­ball,” he said.

Re­ceivers Vic­tor Tucker and Rico Arnold, who both made C-USA’s all-fresh­men team this sea­son, can line up wide or in the slot.

“We will find ways to get the ball in play­mak­ers’ hands,” Healy said.

De­fen­sively, the 49ers played a 4-3 for­ma­tion last sea­son and had one of the na­tion’s top rush de­fenses (av­er­ag­ing 105.7 yards per game). That sys­tem will go out the win­dow with a new em­pha­sis in Healy’s 4-2- 5 scheme.

“I be­lieve in rush­ing the passer, that’s the big­gest deal,” Healy said. “If you get pres­sure with the front four, you don’t have to blitz.”

Healy said the 4-2- 5 puts a premium on de­fen­sive end play, adding he’s been around 10 All-Amer­i­can and all-con­fer­ence de­fen­sive ends dur­ing his play­ing and coach­ing ca­reer.

The 49ers re­turn two de­fen­sive ends – Alex High­smith and Tyriq Har­ris – who were all-con­fer­ence picks this sea­son.

“That sounded great to me,” Har­ris said when hear­ing Healy talk about his affin­ity for that po­si­tion.

IF YOU’RE AN ALL-CON­FER­ENCE PLAYER, THAT’S AWE­SOME. BE AN ALL-CON­FER­ENCE PLAYER FOR OUR STAFF. IF YOU WERE A BENCH-WARMER AND YOU WANT TO GET PLAY­ING TIME, HERE’S THE PER­FECT TIME.

DAVID T. FOSTER III dt­fos­[email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

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