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2022 Opponent Preview: Charlotte

The new-to-football 49ers were once a walkover, but are coming into their own.

Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The South Carolina Gamecocks will take on a new-to-them opponent that hails from a familiar, recruiting-rich area when they welcome the Charlotte 49ers to Williams-Brice Stadium on Sept. 24. The 49ers, who have only been playing Division I football since 2013, have taken rapid strides since that initial first season, now residing within Conference USA and becoming bowl eligible for the first time in 2019.

Last meeting: This will be the first meeting between the programs, although it’s easy to see the 49ers becoming a more regularly scheduled opponent, given their proximity to S.C. and location in a territory the Gamecocks love to recruit.

Last season: After breaking out in 2019, Charlotte took a step back in the short, COVID-hampered year of 2020, but turned in a solid 5-7 effort in 2021 that saw the 49ers bag their first-ever win over a Power 5 opponent (sorry, Duke).

Player to watch out for: Fifth-year starting quarterback Chris Reynolds will lead an offense that is returning a staggering 90 percent of its production, so it’s no exaggeration to say the Niners will be an offense-oriented team. Reynolds threw for 2,680 yards with 25 touchdowns against nine interceptions, and has 2021’s C-USA Freshman of the Year receiver in Elijah Spencer (28 catches for 381 yards and six touchdowns) at his disposal.

Prognosis: The 49ers are still trying to establish themselves as a more consistent presence in C-USA, but should be able to push for bowl eligibility against this season.