CSU-Citadel Game PreviewAugust 31, 2012
by CSU Sports Information
CHARLESTON, S.C. – With the opener of the 2012 Charleston Southern Football season less than 24 hours away, csusports.com provides a phase-by-phase look at Saturday’s matchup with The Citadel. Click here to access The Citadel Gameday Central for Live Stats, Video and more.
The Bulldogs lead the all-time series, 4-1, and come off a 4-7 2011 season which featured five defeats by ten points or less. CSU, meanwhile, enjoyed its only victory over The Citadel in double overtime in 2006 behind the dynamic duo of Collin Drafts and Maurice Price. Here’s insight into what to watch at Johnson Hagood Stadium Saturday evening as the Bucs look to get back in the win column and start 2012 on the right foot.
The battle between juniors Derek Hatcher and Malcolm Dixon featured prominently in spring practice as well as fall camp, and Hatcher enters the opener atop the depth chart with Dixon a close second. CSU Head Coach Jay Mills and Offensive Coordinator Patrick Nix have been pleased with the development of each, and were encouraged by the improved consistency shown in the Bucs’ final scrimmage on August 24.
Hatcher has limited playing experience, having appeared in six games, and will make his first start if he is to get the nod. Dixon, meanwhile, burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2010 by rushing for 97 yards at Kentucky in his first collegiate start. Now a junior, Dixon continued to showcase his outstanding athleticism a year ago, particularly when he earned Big South Offensive Player of the Week Honors after tallying 163 yards rushing in a shootout with Jacksonville.
Whoever is behind center will take the snaps from Nick Kemper, a senior who figures to serve as the anchor of a talented, but young offensive line. Clearing space for the ground game will be crucial for the Bucs, as they managed less than three yards a carry last season. Keelyan Bryant leads an experienced running back corps, alongside Teddy Allen, and Trey Dorsey, who impressed against Central Florida and Florida State before succumbing to injury in week three.
CSU possesses strength in numbers at the wide receiver position, even with Preseason All-Big South selection Nathan Perera questionable due to injury. Corvaughn Archie came on strong at the end of last season, as did Chase Jones and Chris Theodore. Mike Davis proved to be a reliable and versatile target in the passing game after transitioning from his junior college days at running back, and Kirby Broome and Estevan Cintron boast experience as well. Mills, Nix, and the rest of the offensive staff are also excited about the potential of freshmen wideouts Larry Jones III, and Alex Cruz.
The Citadel ranked 3rd in the Southern Conference in overall defense last season, and allowed only three league opponents to go over the 20-point plateau. Although the Bulldogs return a veteran defensive line and three starters in the secondary, they did lose three of their top five tacklers and will be without the services of all-conference defensive tackle Derek Douglas, who suffered a torn ACL during spring practice.
Shawn Quinn makes his debut as defensive coordinator and looks to lead a unit which struggled mightily a year ago, but returns healthier and more seasoned as 2012 begins. Nine players who have started at one time or another top the depth chart defensively and the group shined in all three fall scrimmages.
The unquestioned leader of the defense is redshirt senior cornerback Charles James, who received plenty of preseason accolades, including the Big South Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Award. James enters his final campaign one interception away from tying the school record, and has proven his worth in past seasons by shutting down several of the league’s top receivers. Matt Hardy and Demaris Freeman are back as the starting safeties, and defensive backs coach Marcus Woodson and the entire coaching staff is enthused about the potential of junior cornerback Damian Dixon, a Georgia Military College transfer.
Although the Bucs are confident in their secondary, a greater burden will likely be felt by the defensive line and linebackers in game one. The Citadel enters year three of a triple-option attack, and looks to build on the success which saw them generate FCS College Football’s 3rd best rushing game. Junior Center Mike Sellers is the lynchpin of a line which returns four starters, and will pave the way for a bevy of backs. Sixth-year senior Rickey Anderson leads that charge for the Bulldogs, but Terrell Dallas, Darien Robinson, and Dalton Trevino should all should see their share of carries.
CSU also must account for two quarterbacks in junior Ben Dupree and sophomore Aaron Miller. Dupree started all 11 games in 2011, while Miller saw valuable time and displayed considerable power as a runner with his 6-0, 220-pound frame. Kevin Higgins’ squad also plans to feature more shotgun formations to vary the run game and beef up a passing attack which generated just 32 yards a game last season.
Quinn’s two years as linebackers coach at Georgia Southern figure to help him prepare his players for the triple option, as the Eagles ran it themselves and competed against The Citadel and Wofford (two predominantly triple-option offenses) in Southern Conference battles. Georgia Southern won a defensive struggle with The Citadel a year ago, edging the Bulldogs 14-12 while holding the offense scoreless after halftime.
CSU’s defensive line and linebackers will be counted on heavily against The Citadel, and the group features a good deal of experience. Seniors Cornelius Sterling and Isaac McKenzie lead the way, but sophomore defensive tackle James Smith and junior defensive end Will Hunt are hardly far behind. Smith was a consistent force against the run and pass last season, while Hunt enters 2012 as one of the Big South’s top pass rushers.
Winning the special teams battle is always important, but it may be even more vital against a Citadel team which made plenty of big plays in the area last season. The Bulldogs blocked nine punts in 2011, tying a single-season FCS record. Five of those were courtesy of rangy 6-5 wide receiver Domonic Jones, who set an individual single-season record.
When The Citadel is punting, they can rely on senior Cass Couey, an All-American prospect with a potential NFL future.
CSU’s special teams unit is under the guidance of first-year assistant coach Matthew Smiley, meanwhile, and features two new faces in the kicking game. Cameron Mitchell takes over for four-year starter Andy Brown at punter, while Mark Deboy slides into the placekicking role. Mills was particularly pleased with the improved consistency of both in fall camp, and Tyson Pryor also has a chance to lay his foot to the leather on kickoffs and field goals.
The names in the return game are more familiar to CSU fans, as Charles James handles the punts while Trey Dorsey and Kevin Glears cover kickoff duty. James is shifty with the ball in his hands, Glears possesses some of the best straight-line speed on the squad, and Dorsey had a pair of big returns against Central Florida and Florida State in 2011, before succumbing to injury in the Jacksonville game.