The Charlotte 49ers football team only won two games last season, the first as an FBS program for the 49ers.
But head coach Brad Lambert, who started the program that is just in its fourth season, said he has some veteran players and has added some key new pieces to help his team try and get a few more wins this season.
"We knew we had to be older this season," Lambert said. "And I think we'll be better."
Lambert noted his program was "farther along" in the second years than even he expected back in 2011 when he "took over and the first thing we had to do was go buy a football. Now, here we are on a Thursday night game against a really good opponent."
The 49ers went 2-10 last season.
Cardinal Authority takes a look at five players to watch for on Thursday night when Charlotte plays Louisville in the season-opener at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
1. Larry Ogunjobi, DL, Senior
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Ogunjobi was tied for second in C-USA last season with 14.5 tackles for a loss and is on the preseason watch lists for the Bednarik and Maxwell Awards as one of the top defensive players in the country. He ranks eighth in the FBS among active players with 1.08 tackles for a loss per game. The kid is solid and can move up front. Louisville will see a lot of talented defensive players this season and he could be up there among the better linemen.
2. Kevin Olsen, QB, Junior
The former Miami, Fla., signee, Olsen was once considered among the top quarterbacks in the country for his class. The younger brother of NFL tight end Greg Olsen signed with Miami and redshirted for the 2013 season. But he never played a down for the Hurricanes and left after several reports of off-the-field troubles. He went to FCS Townson but was kicked off the team and ended up last season playing for Riverside, Calif., City College where he threw for 1,080 yards and 13 touchdowns. He won the QB job at Charlotte after spring ball.
3. Kalif Phillips, RB, Senior
Phillips has rushed for 3,113 career yards and would be coming in off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons but missed the final three games last season because of an injury and came up short. He ranked fifth in C-USA last season at 87.4 yards a game and ran for over 100 yards three times. Phillips is a tough, hard-nosed runner with a nose for a big play.
4. Terrance Winchester, DB, Senior
Winchester is a veteran in the secondary and won't make things easy for Lamar Jackson if he targets a receiver on his side of the field. He led Conference-USA last season with four interceptions and was a second-team preseason All-C-USA performer coming into this season. He has great instincts and has seven career interceptions.
5. Nick Cook, LB, Senior
Another veteran for the 49ers, the 6-foot-1, 223-pound Cook is the guy in the middle of the defense that will have to play well if Charlotte has any hopes of keeping the game close. Cook had 73 tackles last season and has a major impact on the defense. He's tough and physical and will be a guy the U of L offense must find on every play.