Coach Brad Lambert isn’t making any predictions on the Charlotte 49ers inaugural football season, which kicks off Aug. 31 at home against Campbell.
He knows better.
Lambert, a former assistant at Wake Forest, has been around college football long enough to know just how tough it is to win with any startup program, even at the FCS level.
Lambert said that while he thinks the 49ers will be ”competitive,” the team’s lack of experience and depth are two of his biggest concerns. His team primarily consists of freshmen, with a couple handfuls of junior college transfers and graduate students sprinkled in.
”I think our schedule is fair, but no matter who we play they are going to have older guys,” Lambert said. ”We know that going in. We have a few older guys, but not a bunch.”
The 49ers begin play as an FCS independent.
However, they’re fast-tracked to move to the FBS level in 2015 when they join Conference USA.
By then, the 49ers will have 85 players on football scholarship. They currently only have 57 since Lambert didn’t want to use up all of his scholarships on one recruiting class.
”Obviously you want to win more than you lose,” Lambert said. ”But we only get one chance to start, and we want to establish how we want to play.”
Charlotte’s inaugural schedule includes teams like Chowan, NC Central, Gardner-Webb, Coastal Carolina and Morehead State.
They’re already preparing for the move to the FBS level, having scheduled Temple in 2015, Kansas State in 2016 and Virginia Tech in 2019.
Lambert hopes that by then the 49ers will be an established program.
But they’re a long way from that right now.
”This year we just have a lot of unknowns about a lot of kids that haven’t played the collegiate game,” Lambert said. ”Our focus has been on one thing and that’s how we play starting our program. So we want to go out and play extremely hard and show the brand of football we want to play. I think if we can do that the wins and losses will take care of themselves.”
Lambert was hired as Charlotte’s first coach in March of 2011, so he’s been chomping at the bit for two-and-a-half years to coach a game in the school’s pristine 15,314-seat on-campus stadium.
It’s been a little like sitting at the beach, but not being able to take a dip in the ocean.
But that time is coming.
The 49ers begin fall practice Thursday morning.
Lambert already knows most of his starters, including quarterback Matt Johnson, who grew up about an hour outside of Charlotte in Maiden, N.C. Now it’s a matter of finding some reliable depth.
”I’m pretty amped up for this time of year,” Lambert said. ”I haven’t disappeared for this month for the last couple of years (because there have been no games), so I think my wife sensed what was coming. I’m looking forward to getting into August and getting into that shell and working with the guys.”