NFL Draft analyst John Vogel previews the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers ahead of the 2021 season. Predictions, pre-season grades, and more:

The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers exploded onto the scene during the 2020 season with an 11-1 finish, missing a perfect season on a failed extra-point attempt in overtime against the Liberty Flames. A relatively new football program, Coastal started playing football nineteen years ago. They entered the FBS in 2017 as the youngest member of the Sun Belt Conference. It was a program-defining season for Coastal, who looks to continue that momentum in 2021.

Head coach Jamey Chadwell enters his fourth season as the headman in Conway, South Carolina. It’s his third full season, as he was named the Interim Head Coach during the 2017 season, and finally the full-time head coach after a year in 2019. His staff has focused on producing a unique scheme and coaching players into it. It’s worked well, as Coastal posted five wins his first year and eleven in year two. It’s also vital to note that this team is still very young and has already accomplished great things.

Coastal Carolina has one of the easiest schedules by a group-of-five school this season. Most of these challenges come from in-conference opponents. They will play on the road against Appalachian State (Oct. 20) and take on Troy (Oct. 28) at home. The other game that could potentially be a problem is a road game against Georgia Southern (Nov. 6th).

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers offense led by TE Isaiah Likely (Jr)

#4 | HT: 6’3″ | WT: 240 | High School: Everett (Malden, MA)

Isaiah Likely is who the offense should be centered around this season, behind redshirt-sophomore quarterback Grayson McCall. Likely is used mostly as a receiver from both inline and out of the slot. He offers a lot of versatility to how he can scheme, much like former Miami Hurricanes tight end, Brevin Jordan. He was a big-play threat for Coastal with his power and athletic ability, scoring two touchdowns from over 70 yards out last season.

All of the positives aside, Likely’s athleticism is not much better than average. While he flashes the ability to make big plays, it’s hard to project him having that kind of impact at the professional level. The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers relied on him to be a big-play weapon at times, and he struggled to show consistent hands with some key drops. Regardless, I think he has the skillset the league likes overall. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t hear his name called.

Pre-Season Grade: 5th/7th Round.

RB Shermari Jones (Jr)

#5 | HT: 6’0″ | WT: 215 | High School: Tate (Pensacola, FL)

Shermari Jones is a fun running back to study, perhaps more highly lauded in NFL circles than his former teammate who went undrafted, CJ Marable. Jones was oftentimes utilized as the “short-yardage” back, with Marable in motion, for his power run ability. Jones also offers solid pass block ability and is capable along the boundaries as a receiver.

It’s so hard to find a running back prospect who has it all. Currently, the league is looking for guys who can run, catch, and block to play the position – even in rotational backfields. While Jones can do all of this, he lacks straight-line speed for the NFL level. His field vision leaves some to be desired, and he relies on his ability to run with power. It could be valuable to someone, but chances are he gets a camp spot to work from.

Pre-Season Grade: 7th/PDFA.

WR Jaivon Heiligh (Jr)

#6 | HT: 6’1″ | WT: 185 | High School: Venice (Venice, FL)

Jaivon Heiligh was the most reliable receiving option that the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers had on the perimeter last year. He flashed some big play potential at the next level with his athletic ability and traits to make things happen after the catch. By far their leading receiver in all categories, Heiligh enters his senior year of school with a chance to make big things happen for himself.

The Coastal scheme somewhat limited his route tree, so that could be a damper on his NFL hopes with such a deep class ahead of him. His speed is good, though, probably in the 4.45 range. If he comes out and has a huge year, I think there’s a good chance he gets drafted late. Right now, he’s a fringe guy from the level of competition and the lack of NFL scheme knowledge at this point.

Pre-Season Grade: 7th/PDFA.

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers Defense headed by RUSH EDGE Jeffrey Gunter (R-Jr)

#94 | HT: 6’3″ | WT: 255 | High School: Riverside (Durham, NC)

Jeffrey Gunter is perhaps the most well-known defender for Coastal Carolina. He is most famously known for his half-time scuffle with former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson during their matchup following an interception where Gunter tackled Wilson twice during the return. He’s the playmaker on this defense, used to contain the perimeter as a rush edge defender who drops into spies and coverage from time to time.

The biggest problem with Gunter is that while he’s explosive and athletic, he doesn’t have the speed you want to see. His role in containing the edge oftentimes fell short. He’s aggressive mentally and wants to make the big play. Teams used misdirection against him to turn him the wrong way and then beat him to the corner. He doesn’t have a wide variety of pass-rushing moves either. He’s powerful, and some team will appreciate that, but he’s most likely not yet ready to be effective at the NFL level.

Pre-Season Grade: 6th/PDFA.

DT CJ Brewer (R-Sr)

#52 | HT: 6’1″ | WT: 270 | High School: Bowdon (Bowdon, GA)

While Jeffrey Gunter collects all of the praise, I think CJ Brewer is the better defender on this team. He’s definitely the better NFL prospect. Brewer is more consistently impacting the game from the interior. A stout run defender who gets off of his blocks well, Brewer has a lethal first step. He’s smart too. I see Brewer in a position more to make a play than anyone else on that defense. His 60 tackles last season are a testament to that.

Brewer’s size isn’t as ideal as teams would like from a one-tech, something that he played a lot in Coastal. Also, it’s hard to imagine Brewer being a double team draw because of his lack of hand usage after his first step. He really needs to learn how to combat arms and win the placement battle to take advantage of his explosive ability. If he learns to do that, he will be going a lot earlier than he could be now.

Pre-Season Grade: 5th/6th Round.

Slot CB D’Jordan Strong (Sr)

#7 | HT: 5’9″ | WT: 170 | High School: South Panola (Batesville, MS)

D’Jordan Strong enters the season as the captain of the secondary, coming off of a strong 2020 campaign. Strong entered the season a JUCO transfer from Northeast Mississippi. Known for his ball skills and fierce, downhill play style, Strong has the potential to be an impact player at the next level. He’s very fast and extremely instinctive. Strong can be credited to creating six turnovers (five interceptions and a forced fumble against Kansas) for the Chanticleers defense this past season.

The first thing that will concern NFL teams is his size. Until we have official measurements, we take an inch off of a prospects listed height and a few pounds off of their listed weight. Most schools are known for exaggerating their players sizes. Doing this puts Strong at just 5’9″ and 170 pounds. While Strong plays on the boundary in Coastal, it’s hard to imagine him being asked to play there in the NFL, which reduces his projected role to the slot. He’s exciting and fun, so another productive year could see him drafted in 2022.

Pre-Season Grade: 6th/PDFA.

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By John Vogel

NFL Draft Analyst. Dad.

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