Coach: Brad Lambert (10-12, entering third season; 10-12 overall)
2014 record: 5-6 overall, No conference affiliation
Look back: Charlotte has quickly moved quickly to build a college football program. The school voted to add football in 2008 and played its first Football Championship Subdivision season in 2013. Conference realignment depleted Conference USA and the league invited the 49ers to join the league in the summer of 2012 — before they had even held their first practice. Charlotte played two seasons at the FCS level to prepare for its shift to the FBS level in 2015.
The 49ers posted 5-6 records in 2013 and 2014. Charlotte opened last year on a three-game win streak, with victories against Campbell, Johnson C. Smith and N.C. Central. The team then dropped its next six games before bouncing back with wins over Wesley College and Morehead State.
Offensive starters returning: 9
Offensive starters lost: 2
Defensive starters returning: 7
Defensive starters lost: 4
Key losses: WR Dmarjai Devine, OL Daniel Blitch, LB Nico Alcalde, LB Dustin Crouser, S Desmond Cooper
Top returnees: QB Matt Johnson, RB Kalif Phillips, WR Trent Bostick, WR Austin Duke, OL Jamal Covington, OL Casey Perry, OL Jarred Barr, OL Danny Book, TE Justin Bolus, DE Brandon Banks, NT Larry Ogunjobi , DE Mark Pettit, LB Karrington King, CB Greg Cunningham Jr., S Branden Dozier, CB Tank Norman
Strengths: Quarterback Matt Johnson returns to lead the offense for his third consecutive season and is among nine returning starters for the 49ers. He passed for 1,941 yards and 13 touchdowns during eight games played before he was sidelined due to an injury.
He is expected to get strong support from running back Kalif Phillips and slot receiver Austin Duke.
Phillips rushed for 1,441 yards and 20 touchdowns as a sophomore last season. Duke had a school-record 1,373 receiving yards as a redshirt sophomore last season. Phillips also had six games with 150 or more rushing yards and seven 100-yard games.
Safety Branden Dozier led the 49ers with 86 tackles last season, while nose tackle Larry Ogunjobi led the Charlotte with 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks.
Charlotte added two FBS transfers — receiver Uriah LeMay (Georgia) and defensive lineman Josh Manley (Syracuse) — who could help the program as it takes a big step forward.
Weaknesses: Charlotte has yet to earn a win over an FBS team or play a full schedule at the top level of college football. The program could not post a winning record against lower-division opponents and the competition only gets tougher moving forward.
While the 49ers’ offense was productive enough to rank in the top 20 in many FBS categories last season, the defense would have ranked among the bottom 25 teams in the nation after allowing 477.5 yards per game.
Outlook: Charlotte returns the majority of its starters and doesn’t play an especially tough schedule. However, the 49ers have never competed at the FBS level and it will likely take time to post the program’s first winning season.
Sept. 4 at Georgia State
Sept. 12 Presbyterian
Sept. 19 at Middle Tennessee
Sept. 26 FAU
Oct. 2 Temple
Oct. 17 at Old Dominion
Oct. 24 Southern Miss
Oct. 31 Marshall
Nov. 7 at FIU
Nov. 14 UTSA
Nov. 21 at Kentucky
Nov. 28 at Rice
College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com