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Autry Denson Named Head Coach At Charleston Southern

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Denson was hired as the new head coach at Charleston Southern of the Football Championship Subdivision.
Photo by Bill Panzica

Following the completion of a second four-year stint at Notre Dame, running backs coach Autry Denson will begin a new chapter in his football life as the newly named head coach at Football Championship Series school Charleston Southern.

Still the all-time leading rusher for the Fighting Irish during his playing career from 1995-98 with 4,318 yards (not including three bowl games), Denson joined head coach Brian Kelly’s staff in 2015 after 2009-14 Irish assistant Tony Alford accepted a post at Ohio State. While at his alma mater, Denson maximized the skills of numerous Notre Dame ball carriers:

• Following an injury to starter Tarean Folston on his third carry to open the 2015 season, senior and former safety and wide receiver C.J. Prosise finished with 1,032 yards on the ground for the 10-3 team to become a third-round selection in the NFL Draft. That same year, freshman Josh Adams romped for a school-record 835 rushing yards, the most ever by a Notre Dame rookie.

• During the 2017 campaign in which Notre Dame’s 269.5 rushing yards per game were the highest at the school in 21 years, Adams’ 1,430 yards on the ground were the fourth most (when including bowl games for all) in school history, leading to him turning pro early and rush for 511 yards so far as a rookie for the Philadelphia Eagles.

The 6.3 yards per carry Denson’s running backs averaged in 2017 not only shattered the modern-day school record of 5.63 set in his first season (2015), but also the all-time school standard of 6.2 set way back in 1921.

• This past season, senior Dexter Williams — who totaled 641 yards rushing through his first three years — romped for 995 yards despite missing the first four games because of a suspension. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry and scored 12 touchdowns.

Especially amazing is each of the last two years a Notre Dame running back has not lost a fumble.

Charleston Southern competes in the Big South Conference, which it joined in 2002. The Buccaneers became a full Division I member in 1993. They won the Big South in both 2015 and 2016, advancing to the FCS playoffs for the first time, where they lost in the quarterfinals in 2015 and the first round in 2016.

Last October, the NCAA announced that the Buccaneers will be placed on two years probation after an investigation revealed that the school improperly certified 55 student-athletes in 12 different sports over a six-year period. The penalty also included the loss of six scholarships for the football team over the next two seasons, although it is still eligible for postseason play through the probationary period.

Denson’s predecessor, Mark Tucker, resigned in December after a two-year record of 11-11. He had been with the program for six years.

Denson is the fifth Notre Dame assistant under Kelly to be named a head coach. The others were Charley Molnar (Massachusetts in 2012-13), Bob Diaco (Connecticut in 2014-16), Chuck Martin, who is still at Miami (Ohio) after getting hired there in 2014, and Mike Sanford, who was at Western Kentucky in 2016-17 before getting fired and taking a position as the offensive coordinator at Utah State.

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