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CFF Targets - New look Charlotte points to a new VOLUME PIG in 2023
The former hedge fund manager-turned coach is up to his old tricks again
The minute I laid eyes on you, I knew you had what it took
- Lynch, Wallstreet (1987)
Today’s profile is going to be a fun one. New Charlotte head coach Biff Poggi is an intriguing character, and his reputation at the high school level in the mid-Atlantic area is legendary. There’s more to the story, though, but you’ll have to stick around for more details on that. The player—Shadrick Byrd, is one that is known in the CFF community, but not really talked about often.
But there’s been a lot of change in Charlotte, and this program could be primed for a WKU-style turnaround in 2023. Upon researching for Nate Marchese’ dynasty CFF league, I got a chance to revisit this offence. Safe to say, the minute I laid eyes on [Byrd], I knew [he] had what it took.
Charlotte is entering the Biff Poggi era
Francis Xavier “Biff” Poggi has a very interesting background. He joins Charlotte by way of Michigan, where he served as consigliere to UM’s head coach Jim Harbaugh for the past two seasons. It’s no coincidence that his presence in Ann Arbor coincided with the Wolverines’ most successful stretch in recent memory. Here is an excerpt about him from a recent Athletic article:
So what the heck changed in Ann Arbor? [re: beating OSU twice]
It started with Harbaugh hiring a more energetic staff in 2021, including six new assistants. But ask folks inside the program, and they’ll point to the arrival of one staffer in particular.
He’s a guy even the most die-hard fans probably wouldn’t recognize. His name is Biff. He’s 62, and he may be the most interesting man in coaching right now.
“I think Biff’s presence there is huge,” says Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, who ran the Wolverines defense in 2021. “He’s kind of like the consigliere. He’s really the only guy that is willing to hash it out with (Harbaugh).”
I don’t like the assertion that die-hard college football fans wouldn’t recognize him, I’ve been following Biff since his days at Baltimore powerhouse St. Francis Academy.
Unlike most coaches, Poggi spent most of his working life away from the gridiron, well, at least not solely on the gridiron. He is a former hedge fund manager on Wall street, and decided to put a portion of the fortune he had made into upgrading Baltimore’s St. Francis Academy — a predominantly black private school located in a very rough area of town — into a high-functioning institution, and eventually a dominant national football program.
For those unfamiliar, SFA regularly plays the best teams from Florida (hello IMG Academy), California (Mater Dei) and Texas (Duncanville). The players that came through that program while Biff was there include Blake Corum, Eyabi Anoma (former five star and top-five national prospect, committed to Alabama, eventually transferred to UM and then Charlotte), Chris Braswell (former five star currently at Alabama), Shane Lee (former four star and top-100 prospect, current Alabama player), Jamon Dumas-Johnson (former four star, UGA commit and Butkus award finalist as a sophomore) and many others. Every major program made the trip up to checkout Biff’s operation, UGA, Alabama, LSU, all heavily recruited players from SFA.
You’ll notice that a lot of Poggi’s former players ended up at Alabama. Indeed, Nick Saban himself is a big fan of Biff, here’s what he said about the former hedge fund manager:
Managing a football program is similar to overseeing a successful business – vision, culture, hiring, management and understanding people are key. Biff has been there and has done just that.
Poggi knows how to program build. One of the most noteworthy things he did while at SFA to me was realizing that he needed to bring kids in from all over the DMV—so he invested in row-houses for student housing. SFA would then recruit and bring in local talent from surrounding areas (e.g. Blake Corum), allowing them to build a force strong enough to withstand California, Texas, and Florida’s best private and public schools.
While Biff doesn’t have an actual track record as a play caller in college, every team he’s been around has been extremely run-heavy with a star-tailback. It was Blake Corum both in high school and college for Poggi’s SFA and UM teams, and now he inherits a team where potentially its best returning player is its tailback—Shadrick Byrd.
Charlotte OC—Mike Miller, spent the last four seasons at Maryland. He was promoted to co-OC in 2022, and his Terrapins produced a very effective rushing attack through true sophomore runner Roman Hemby. Hemby ran for 989 yards and 10 TDs on 188 carries, while also catching 33 passes for 298 yards and another score. All told, he accumulated 1287 total yards and 11 TDs. His rush and pass usage averages out to around 17 touches per game.
Prior to Maryland, Miller spent two seasons as an offensive analyst at Alabama (2017-2018).
Kyle Devan is Charlotte’s offensive line coach and run-game coordinator. He was apart of that 2021 UM program that had Hassan Haskins rush 270 times for 1327 yards and 20 TDs (Poggi was also involved with this team).
I like this Charlotte staff; Poggi’s assembled a (mostly) BIG10 crew with a penchant for rushing success and big-boy football. Again, for those unfamiliar, Poggi’s SFA teams were known for 1) running the ball and 2) playing incredible defence.
If you don’t believe me, go navigate to 247 Sports or ON3 and filter on the top players by year for the state of Maryland. See how many highly ranked defenders, offensive lineman, and running backs came through this program between 2018-2021.
Here’s one last excerpt from The Athletic to drive the point home:
After Poggi’s St. Frances team went 2-0 against IMG, he told Harbaugh about something he felt had made a difference. “We do something called the ‘East Baltimore Drill’ every day,” Poggi said. In football terms, it was really “Inside Drill,” or Football 101, football in the trenches. Pads popping. No passes. Just a smash-mouth running game. No blitzing. No slanting.
“We do it every day because we know IMG isn’t doing it every day,” Poggi told him. “We know they’re running skelly and parading around their billion-dollar facility.”
Any more questions on what Poggi and the boys want to do this season?
RB Shadrick Byrd — 5’10, 210
Speaking of powerhouse high school programs, one of Alabama’s top high schools—Thompson high, is where the player of today’s profile hails from. The former three star originally committed to Iowa (surprise, surprise, another BIG10 man making his way over to Charlotte), but would struggle to gain traction in that offence. He registered no stats in his two years with the Hawkeyes (2019-2020).
The rising fifth year senior joined Charlotte for the 2021 season. His first year under the previous regime was a solid one—he rushed 131 times for 580 yards and 3 TDs while catching 20 passes (25 targets) for another 248 yards and 2 scores (11.1 FPG in 1-ppr). The following season was pretty similar, he rushed for 620 yards and 4 TDs on 149 carries and caught 21 passes (27 targets) for 222 yards and 1 TD (11.3 FPG). Over the course of his first two seasons with the 49ers, Byrd never averaged less than 4.2 YPC per season.
With the new regime in town, it might be time to hoard Byrd shares like they’re packages of toilet paper at the beginning of the COVID-19 hysteria. The early signs are good—my guy led the team in rushing during the spring game with a team-high 19 carries for 103 yards (over 5 YPC). If that’s a sign of things to come usage-wise then count me in.
And it’s no wonder that Byrd saw a lot of the work in the spring game, the other players in the room are all either true freshman, or redshirt FR/SOs who have little-to-no production to their names. Almost the entire projected starting offensive line is comprised of transfers that Poggi brought in upon arrival. Normally that would give me pause, but I trust Poggi and his boys to get the big dogs on the line ready for action in 2023.
Poggi is building an industrial machine of hard-nosed football down there in Charlotte, and Byrd should be the featured weapon of choice to lead the conquest for AAC (Charlotte officially moves on from C-USA July 1) dominance in 2023. And if all else fails, I trust that Poggi will establish the run some way-some how.
While I like the staff—they’re fun to write about and have interesting backgrounds, it is a largely unproven cast of characters. I have a pretty good feel for what I think they want to do, whether they’ll be able to successfully facilitate that (which I’m just going to go ahead and call: Poggi-ball) in year one is another question.
I trust the staff will put together a strong offensive line, but I admittedly don’t know that much about the situation there, other than there are a lot of new faces.
Charlotte underwent a Deion Sanders-style facelift this offseason, so the program overall could be very poor in its first year of the new regime, which is usually a damper on RB production.
Both of the QBs who are vying for the starting position are dual-threat type players.
Charlotte also brought in three star RB Durrell Robinson, who also just so happens to have played at SFA. Robinson is a higher rated recruit than Charlotte typically gets, and his time at SFA would have coincided with Poggi being there (albeit, I believe it was only Robinson’s freshman and sophomore seasons).
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