Tre Pinkney
Coastal Carolina receiving stud Tre Pinkney is a key player in 2023 (PHOTO CREDIT: Coastal Carolina Athletics)

Coastal Carolina Football Preview: All Eyes On Grayson McCall

Coastal Carolina has had a great run since leaving the FCS, but in recent years have been impressive. The Chants aim to be bowl bound now.

Coastal Carolina won 31 games in the past three seasons, with three straight bowl game appearances. The Chanticleers have been impressive since their transition from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2017. With former head coach Jamey Chadwell shifting over to Liberty, the Chants hired Tim Beck, an accomplished offensive coordinator recently at schools including Texas, Nebraska and North Carolina State. Don't expect any issues this year, especially with talented quarterback Grayson McCall back.

Coastal Carolina 2023 Preview

The conference: Sun Belt Conference

2022 record: 9-4 (lost to East Carolina in Birmingham Bowl)

Conference finish: 6-2 (tied for first in Sun Belt East with James Madison)

Head coach: Tim Beck (first season; first season overall)

All-star candidates: Grayson McCall (junior), quarterback (2,700 yards passing, 24 passing touchdowns, only 2 interceptions, and 6 rushing touchdowns); Sam Pinckney (senior), wide receiver (71 catches, 996 yards, 3 touchdowns); Jared Brown (sophomore), wide receiver (49 catches, 789 yards, 6 touchdowns); J.T. Killen (junior), linebacker (98 tackles, 4 tackles for loss); Kennedy Roberts (senior), defensive lineman (26 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss)

The newcomer: Ja'Vin Simpkins (top-rated high school recruit for Coastal, with some four-star rankings depending on services)

Grayson McCall

Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall is very good and a potential NFL Draft pick. (Photo credit: Coastal Carolina Athletics)

The Breakdown

Coastal Carolina will undoubtedly be one of the upper-tier teams at this level. The Chants' returning quarterback is one of the best in the FBS nation and, barring injury (no cursing intended), he will likely wrap up this season as the No. 1 passer in school history — and he's only a junior. He has 8,000 passing yards and change, and former quarterback Alex Ross sits at 9,918 yards.

McCall has nearly a full stable returning of skill-position talent along with three offensive linemen. This program will score points, folks. The defense gave up a lot of points, though, so that has to change.

The defense is the key this year. The new head coach is offensive-oriented, but defensive coordinator Craig Naivar is a proven coaching veteran when it comes to defense, with recent stints at Texas, Southern Cal, Kentucky and Southern Methodist University.

The Key Game and Why

Coastal Carolina is a bowl-caliber team, and it avoids two top Sun Belt opponents in South Alabama and Troy. But the home game in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, against James Madison on Nov. 25 will be a massive matchup. If Coastal Carolina wants to be in the Sun Belt Conference title game on Dec. 2, it needs this home win over JMU.

The Toughest Game and Why

Aside from the UCLA trip in Week 1, the road trip to a solid Appalachian State program and the home game mentioned above with James Madison are co-leaders for the "toughest game" when it comes to matchups that truly matter.

The Chances of Reaching the Conference Title Game

Those chances are realistic, but probably not as the host (No. 1 team). Teams including South Alabama, Troy, James Madison — you name it — will be the biggest competitors, and Coastal Carolina doesn't play the University of South Alabama and Troy. Not playing USA and Troy could be viewed on the surface as a positive, but Coastal Carolina could have handed them a loss and won't have that opportunity. This will be fun to watch.

J.T. Killen

Coastal Carolina defensive stud J.T. Killen is a key player in 2023. (Photo credit: Coastal Carolina Athletics)

The Prediction

When you break down the schedule, the road trip to UCLA (a low-level Top 25 type of FBS team) is a likely loss. Let's face it: Coastal will get a great lesson out of playing UCLA in the Rose Bowl, and the game shouldn't get too out of hand. After that? Other non-conference matchups with FCS Duquesne, FBS newbie Jacksonville State at home and a late road trip to a challenging-but-beatable Army team should be wins.

That's three wins right there.

And when you consider that Coastal Carolina avoids some of the top teams in the Sun Belt, Coastal could very well end up with double-digit wins and find itself in a nice bowl game.

MORE: Sun Belt Football 2023 Conference Preview