Kyle Anderson was the top defensive tackle on The Citadel's recruiting board three years ago.
And with good reason. At 6-3 and 260 pounds, Anderson had earned all-state honors while playing for Jefferson High School in Bloomington, Minn., and then had a year of seasoning at Hargrave Military Academy.
But Bulldogs coaches knew they had a tough recruiting fight on their hands.
"He had a great get-off, was very explosive," recalled Citadel defensive coordinator Isaac Collins. "When he got double-teamed, he was firm. You could see he was a kid who had the tools.
"But we knew we were in a dogfight. He had Marshall, he had Western Kentucky and a few other people sniffing around. And he told us on his visit that he wanted to try to be a part of a Division I-A program."
So when Anderson opted for Western Kentucky, which becomes a full-fledged member of the FBS and the Sun Belt Conference this year, Citadel coaches were disappointed, but not surprised.
"He liked us, he liked his visit here," Collins said. "It was a tough decision for him, but he wanted that I-A part of it."
Imagine Collins' shock, then, when after two seasons at Western Kentucky, Kyle Anderson called The Citadel with this news -- he was getting his release from WKU and wanted to transfer to The Citadel.
"The first conversation I had with him after he got his release, I asked him, 'Why do you want to transfer here?' " Collins said. "He said, 'Coach, I think I made a mistake.' "
Better late than never, Anderson is now a full-grown 6-4 and 275 pounds and is making an impact on
the Bulldogs' defensive line in fall practice, running with the first team alongside all-Southern Conference tackle Terrence Reese.
"Kyle is fitting in very well," Collins said. "He really knows how to take on blocks, how to get his hips in there. I think Reese is even more excited than I am. He knows some action will come his way, because people won't be able to just double-team him like they have in the past."
Anderson said he passed on The Citadel the first time around because of the lure of I-A football, and because the prospect of four more years of military school after a year at Hargrave was daunting.
But despite his on-field success at WKU -- he played in every game as a freshman in 2007 and started as a sophomore last season -- he was not happy at the Bowling Green, Ky., school.
"I was just unhappy with some of the players and coaches," he said. "The attitude of some of the players and coaches was not exactly what I had in mind. They are good people and all, but it was just not a fit for me exactly.
"I wanted a place with character, and with the military school and all, I thought The Citadel was a good fit."
WKU, 2-10 last year under coach David Elson, has seen its share of transfers this year. Defensive tackle Neil Harrell is at Georgia Southern, defensive back Corey Shields at Chattanooga and quarterback K.J. Black at Prairie View.
But Anderson's transfer is a bit more complicated. As a 21-year-old junior, he will have to go through The Citadel's knob year, normally reserved for 17 and 18-year-old freshmen.
Citadel coach Kevin Higgins made sure Anderson knew what he was in for.
"The first person I went to see after I talked to Kyle was the head coach," Collins said. "And Coach got on the phone with Kyle and grilled him, hit him hard with all the things he was going to have to do in the fourth-class system. He didn't bat an eyelash."
Not a great high school student, Anderson left Hargrave with a 3.8 GPA and is majoring in sports management at The Citadel.
"I think he saw that he needed that military structure," Collins said.
Anderson has a cousin who just graduated from West Point, and a brother in the Air Force.
"I know I will stand out in the bunch," he said. "I know I will have a lot of things to get used to and overcome. Maybe it was the way I was raised, but taking this path does not seem strange to me."
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