Bulldogs Conclude First Week of Spring Football Practice
Charleston, S.C. – The passing game has been a point of emphasis for The Citadel during the first week of spring practice.
The Citadel wrapped up three consecutive days of spring drills on Saturday morning with its first tackling session. The Bulldogs worked out in shorts and helmets only on Thursday and Friday.
In the third season in the triple option offense, head coach Kevin Higgins is looking for more balance in the attack a year after the Bulldogs attempted only 75 passes. The process began even before the start of practice.
"The first thing we did was look hard at several different routes and schemes and began installing those in addition to using more shotgun, which will put our quarterbacks in a more favorable position to throw downfield," said Higgins.
Returning starter Ben Dupree and backup Aaron Miller, who saw extensive action as a freshman last season, have looked good in their initial forays into the more diversified offense. Both have spent more time throwing the ball during the early stages of practice, and time and reps will make them even more comfortable in their expanded role.
"The key for both quarterbacks will be improving their decision making, timing and accuracy," said Higgins. "The more you do it the more you'll enhance your play in those areas.
"We're where I'd thought we'd be through the first three days of practice," continued Higgins. "This is still very new for them. Aaron probably has a little stronger arm but needs to get more accurate, and Ben needs to work on his footwork. They are both hard workers and will get better with additional reps."
The passing game should receive a boost with the transition of former starting quarterback Matt Thompson to wide receiver following the 2011 season. He has embraced the move and brings more athleticism to the unit.
"Matt is a competitive person and wanted to get on the field," said Higgins. "He is taller than most of our other receivers, has good hands and is a very good athlete. He looks natural out there and will be a good addition to our receiving corps when he gets a little more experience."
Offensive tackle Devin Bice has made great strides in his battle to assume the starting position left open by the departure of Tyler Thornton. Higgins is also excited to have B-back Terrell Dallas in the fold for a fifth season after he was lost in the opener last September with a partially torn ACL.
Higgins also singled out Greg Adams and Domonic Jones, a pair of reserve wide receivers last season who will be competing for additional playing time or perhaps even starting jobs this fall. Slot back Jake Stenson has also turned in some athletic plays and has caught the eye of the coaching staff in his return from a torn ACL.
The defense has been busy integrating the 3-4 and 4-3 alignments as they work on becoming more multiple and give opponent's different looks up front. The Citadel defense should be a strength of the team this season as it returns most of its front line and the entire starting secondary.
The coaching staff has emphasized forcing turnovers this spring. That has already paid dividends as the Bulldogs intercepted a pair of passes in Saturday's practice, including one by redshirt freshman Adrian Ranson, and Brandon McCladdie is also looking very comfortable at a corner spot.
One of the intriguing aspects of spring practice will be how The Citadel replaces mainstays Tolu Akindele and Jeremy Buncum at inside linebacker. Sophomores Carl Robinson and Carson Smith have the inside track for those jobs and have not disappointed through the first week. Higgins says they are both intelligent players and will continue to get better.
The spring is very important for the kicking game. Thomas Warren has stepped up and done a good job on his field goals and will compete with incoming freshman Eric Goins for the job in the fall. Cass Couey, one of the top punters in the FCS a year ago, has picked up where he left off and has looked very good.
The Bulldogs resume their spring practices on Tuesday. The four-week spring concludes with the annual Blue and White game on Mar. 17 at 2 p.m. at Johnson Hagood Stadium.