Preparing for Charleston Southern, Citadel football makes late change to offensive line
Often after practice, The Citadel’s Cullen Brown turned to teammate Derek Douglas and said, “I wish I could have gotten more snaps.”
As a tight end in the Bulldogs’ triple-option offense, Brown was something of a forgotten man, on the field less than half the time and rarely targeted for passes. “I think he caught maybe two passes during camp,” Citadel football coach Kevin Higgins said Monday.
Beginning with Saturday’s season opener against Charleston Southern, Brown will get all the snaps he can handle. The 6-4, 255-pound junior has moved to right tackle, where he will be the starter.
It’s a move that Higgins and offensive coordinator Bob Bodine have long contemplated, but didn’t initiate until after practice last Saturday.
“We talked about it during the offseason,” Higgins said Monday at his first weekly news conference of the season. “And we wanted to give it a good chance in camp to evaluate. Bottom line, we said do we want Cullen Brown on the field 20 percent of the time (at tight end)? Or do we want him on the field 80 to 100 percent of the time?
“He’s one of our best blockers, very physical. When you play tight end in the triple option, you are very familiar with the (techniques) of the tackle position, so it’s not really an adjustment for him at all, other than that he will be on the field more.”
The move gives the Bulldogs a new pair of starting tackles, with junior Devin Bice (6-3, 275) at left tackle. Neal Strange, who started last year, and sophomore Charles Coleman are the backups.
Brown, a surfing enthusiast from Cocoa Beach, Fla., caught just one pass for 26 yards a year ago, so it’s not like he’s giving up 40 catches a year to be a blocker.
“But I wasn’t going to move him unless he wanted to do it,” Higgins said. “A guy who’s 20, 21 years old and came in as a tight end, if his heart is not in it, there’s no sense in doing it. But he said, ‘Coach, I want to do this. I want to get on the field. I don’t want to be on the sideline anymore.’ ”
Douglas, the Bulldogs’ All-Southern Conference defensive tackle, has faced Brown, one of his best friends on the team, many times in practice.
“He has a tight end personality — strange like a lineman and loud like a receiver,” Douglas said. “I’d been wondering if this was going to happen. Even at tight end, he was getting a lot of reps at tackle and just dominating. He’s like (center) Mike Sellers — a lot of guys don’t want to go against Mike because they know he will get after you, and Cullen is a lot like that.”
With Brown at right tackle, sophomore Alex Glover (6-3, 230) of Wando High School is now the starting tight end, with 6-7 sophomore Capers Williamson the backup.
“That’s another reason we are able to do this,” Higgins said. “Alex is ready to go, he’s very athletic and has gotten bigger and stronger. He’s ready to handle that position, and this gives us a chance to get our best players on the field.”
Brown’s move to tackle shores up a Citadel offense that believes it is ready for a breakthrough in its third year in the triple option. Junior Ben Dupree and sophomore Aaron Miller have experience at quarterback, and the stable of running backs seems plenty deep, led by fullback Darien Robinson and slotbacks Rickey Anderson and Dalton Trevino.
“The theory is that in the third year the option will run as smoothly as it is capable of,” Anderson said. “And I think that has shown itself in camp.”
Freshmen on the two-deep include center Sam Frye, defensive ends Mark Thomas and Joe Phillips, nose tackle Mitchell Jeter, linebacker Joe Crochet and safety Nick Willis. Rookie slotback Vinny Miller is not on the two-deep, but could play, Higgins said.
The goal is to redshirt Frye (5-10, 270), Higgins said.
Free tickets for Saturday’s game are available at Morris Nissan, Lylerly’s Cleaners and East Bay Deli locations, There will be a post-game fireworks show.