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SPORTS LIBRARY: Football horizontal illustration

Charlotte 49ers head coach Will Healy has become one of the hottest young names in college football.

An Eddie Robinson Award winner as the National FCS Coach of the Year, he was selected as the head football coach for the Charlotte 49ers late last year.

Healy, who had coached at Austin Peay State University for the last three years, is known for infusing energy and enthusiasm into his program, engineering one of the greatest turnarounds in college football history. A gifted recruiter, he has helped attract top five FCS recruiting classes in four of the last five years.

However, both Healy and his 49ers are in for their toughest challenge in program history this week as they take on the No. 1 Clemson Tigers.

"I’ve played … and coached in a lot of games like this,” Healy said. “I don’t know if you can put a price tag on what it does for the visibility of your program when you’re on the ACC Network or ESPN and you’re playing the No. 1 team in the country.

“People are going to be talking about Charlotte football and that helps us a lot. Now it’s up to us to go out there and put a great brand of football on the field and to be competitive in the football game.”

49ers on offense

During his time at Austin Peay, Healy displayed an offensive IQ that was scary good.

Austin Peay broke a slew of records during the 2017 season, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The Govs finished sixth in the nation and set a school record with 3,105 yards rushing. They also set records for rushing touchdowns (32), total touchdowns (45), yards per rush (5.35), yards per game (387.2), total offense (4,646) and total points (327).

The 49ers have picked up where Healy left off at Austin Peay.

Charlotte leads Conference USA and ranks in the FBS top 20 in scoring (47.4 ppg), rushing offense (296.7/gm) and total offense (522.3/gm). Charlotte has scored over 40 points in three straight games (49, 41, 52) for the first time in school history. The 49ers have put up 500+ yards of total offense in all three games. Charlotte's 52 points in the win over UMass are the most scored by the 49ers against an FBS opponent, breaking the mark of 41 set in the previous game vs. Appalachian State.

Even though the 49ers are stepping up their competition from what they have faced in the first three weeks of the season, they are still confident that they can continue their success against the Tigers.

“We expect to go in and compete, like we do week in and week out,” senior tailback Benny LeMay said. “I don’t really dictate who we play. They put on their pads just like us. They’re human beings. I’m not really looking at them like they’re the New England Patriots. But I definitely give them the respect. They’re the No. 1 team in the country."

49ers on defense

Healy named Brandon Cooper, who was his defensive coordinator at Austin Peay, as co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach.

Cooper has been on Healy's staff for the last three years at Austin Peay. Originally brought on as co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach in 2016, Cooper was promoted to defensive coordinator for the 2018 season. Together, they were part of the most dramatic turnaround in college football history as the Govs went from a 1-45 team over four seasons to a 13-10 mark over their final two seasons that included a 13-6 record vs. FCS brothers.

Through the first three games of the season, the 49ers have given up their share of points, as they rank 106th in FBS football in scoring defense — allowing 33.7 points per game.

But even with the defense facing the challenge of stopping the likes of Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins, among others, the 49ers are still confident they can play their best game of the season.

“We want to shock the world,” safety Jacione Fugate said. “We’re not playing small. We want to play big. We want to take this program somewhere it’s never been. We’re not going to lay down for nobody. We will never do that. I don’t care how weak we used to be. It’s not the program we are now. Things have changed.”

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