By Ed McGranahan
After a test earlier with Georgia Tech, The Citadel triple option shouldn’t be a problem, right?
Yeah, and I can show you some beachfront property in Bamberg.
Option offenses always seem to be a headache and this shouldn’t be any different. The Citadel spent seven weeks in 2012 ranked in The Sports Network Top 25, reaching No. 10 following victories overGeorgiaSouthern and Appalachian State. After a mid-schedule slump, the Bulldogs finished with three straight wins including games at VMI and Furman for the program’s first winning overall record in five seasons.
Steady improvement resulted in 300.6 rushing yards per game, fourth-highest in the nation last season. In addition, the Bulldogs for the second straight year were the least penalized team in the country.
Most of the personnel that spearheaded the offense will be back this fall, including a pair of experienced quarterbacks, a 1,000-yard rusher at running back and all five starters on the offensive line.
“One thing we will be looking to accomplish this spring is the expansion of our offense,” said head coach Kevin Higgins, entering his ninth season. Higgins was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year Award. “We will add several shotgun packages and continue to invest in the passing game.”
Injuries gutted the heart of the defense, but three freshmen gained valuable experience.
“From a defensive standpoint we’d like to become more proficient at stopping the run, an area we had issues with last year,” said Higgins. “We want to become better with our technique and responsibilities, especially among the front seven.”
Nov. 30,@ Clemson Memorial Stadium
2012 record: 7-4
SoCon record: 5-3, tied for 4th
The series: Clemson leads 30-5-1, including 15 straight victories.
Double-barrel QBs trigger triple option
Returning starters: 7
QB: Ben Dupree and Aaron Miller offer distinctly different sets of skills, but both are capably versatile in the triple-option. Dupree, a senior, has started 24 straight games. Last season he rushed for 839 yards to rank ninth in the SoCon, scored nine touchdowns and completed 25 of 45 passes for 387 yards and three touchdowns. His career total 1,671 rushing yards rank 17th in school history and 18 rushing touchdowns place him 11th. Possessing a stronger arm, Miller completed 34 of 69 passes for 513 yards as a sophomore
RB: While its depth could be tested early, the Bulldogs return senior Darien Robinson at the “B” back. His 1,007 rushing yards ranked seventh in the SoCon, 39th in the nation, averaging 91.5 yards per game. Rickey Anderson and VanDyke Jones combined to rush for more than 2,000 yards in their careers, so Higgins will try rolling in senior Terrance Martin and sophomore Vinny Miller.
WR: This hasn’t been a critical area, but Higgins hopes to explore the passing game and Matt Thompson could be the primary target. As a junior he averaged nearly 22 yards on each of his 13 catches, including three for touchdowns. Brandon Eakins and Julian Walker are athletic targets.
OL: The most experienced position on this year’s team, line includes five fifth-year players – Devin Bice, Cullen Brown, Keith Carter, Robert Finke and Jim Knowles. Senior center Mike Selllers became only the fourth player in Citadel history to be named consensus First-Team All-America. In addition to his national accolades, Sellers was the recipient of the Jacobs Blocking Award as the SoCon’s top offensive lineman. Carter is a converted defensive lineman and Brown was a tight end for three years.
TE: Alex Glover moved into the starting tight end role after Brown switched to tackle and is atop the depth chart entering the spring. There is no other experienced tight end on the current roster.
Returning starters: 8
DL: Derek Douglas and Bay Amrhein offer experience, but replacing all-conference Chris Billingslead becomes problematic.Douglas was the team’s MVP in 2011 but sustained a torn ACL last spring and missed the early portion of 2012. Amrhein became a starter and responded with 32 tackles. Nose tackle Mitchell Jeter and end Joe Phillips both played as freshmen.
LB: Injuries wreaked havoc last year with Carl Robinson and Rah Muhammad going down in consecutive weeks. Both are expected to return. At the time of his injury, Robinson was well ahead of any other Bulldog defender with 54 tackles, and his average of 10.8 per game would have ranked him fourth in the SoCon had he been able to maintain that pace. Muhammad was also having a solid sophomore season with 46 tackles when he suffered a broken ankle in week six against Samford. James Riley earned valuable experience.
DB: Fifth-year cornerbacks Brandon McCladdie and Sadath Jean-Pierre return. Safetys Julian Baxter and Nick Willis split time. McCladdie was named second-team all-conference on the strength of 45 tackles, two interceptions and three forced fumbles. Jean-Pierre was second with 80 tackles, including 65 solo stops, and breaking up five passes. Willis started the first seven games as a freshman while Baxter was battling through injuries and had 38 tackles and an interception. Baxter wound up playing in 10 games with four late-season starts and had 40 tackles and a pick.
PK: Fifth-year senior Thomas Warren hit all 43 extra point attempts and 9 of 15 field goals. He solidified his place in Bulldog football lore with his 37-yard field goal with 35 seconds remaining to give The Citadel a dramatic, 23-21, win over No. 3 Georgia Southern.
P: The battle to replace Cass Couey should come down to Austin Jordan, who handled kickoffs last year, and redshirt freshman Eric Goins.