The Charlotte 49er’s (did you know that was their name? Be honest) are one of the youngest programs in division one football, first putting a team on the field less than a decade ago. It’s fitting that 34 year old head coach Will Healy is one of the youngest head coaches in the country as well. Healy has a track record of quick turnarounds and getting talent to campus, focusing on developing his own culture.
The former Austin Peay head coach went winless his first year, signed the best recruiting class at the FCS level regardless, and took the Governors to a playoff berth the following year. His offense is being ran by former Willie Fritz assistant Alex Atkins, and has put up impressive numbers for the 2-1 49ers. The offense enters Saturday having scored at least forty points in every single game.
Charlotte runs a spread option offense that looks to feature star RB Benny LeMay, complementing him with diminutive (listed: 5’4”, 170 lbs.) breakout freshman Ishod Finger. The duo have ran over 500 yards on 8 YPC so far. Charlotte mixes inside zone, outside zone, power and counter running schemes while using their quarterback’s ability to keep the ball to “freeze” defensive ends.
The 49er’s tight ends see the field a lot. Only one (Jacob Hunt) has caught a reception yet, going for all of five yards. The tight ends have been important as lead blockers, as well as allowing Atkins to get into some of the unbalanced formations he likes to run out of.
Everyone is potentially involved in the run game, jet sweeps and plays off of that look are particularly important when they go under center.
Quarterback Chris Reynolds has been relatively impressive on the ground after not showing much as a runner last year. The sophomore has also been efficient in a limited role, only being asked to throw 20-25 times a game.
A lot of those throws are either play-action/RPO throws in the seams or screens behind the line of scrimmage.
With so much of the offense focused on running between the tackles, Reynolds has been asked to make throws to punish teams out wide or over the top if they over commit against the running game.
Playing against comparatively talented teams, it’s worked. It’s hard to see it working against a Clemson team that’ll have a massive talent advantage up front. While the 49er’s can get into a four-wide look and field four pretty productive wide receivers, it’s not what they do best. There’s only so much a college football team can develop at once and Atkins (a former offensive line coach) appears to have his running game ahead of his passing game at this point in the season.
There’s no reason to think that Charlotte will make a game of this, with most sports books favoring Clemson by 40+ points at the time of writing. Healy seems like an exciting coach, and he runs the sort of offense that can shorten a game. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Charlotte cover the spread. But there’s a reason that the Tigers are writing Charlotte a check, and we should expect a comfortable win Saturday night.