In the middle of recruiting season, Citadel football coach Kevin Higgins finds himself adding to his wish list.
Higgins found out Tuesday that he must replace quarterbacks coach Craig Candeto, a key cog in the Bulldogs’ resurgence in the triple-option offense.
The 30-year-old Candeto was named Tuesday as the head coach at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, a Division III school that plays in the tough Ohio Athletic Conference.
Candeto played quarterback at Navy under option guru Paul Johnson, the head coach at Georgia Tech, and was a fighter pilot before turning to coaching.
In two years at The Citadel, Candeto mentored quarterbacks Ben Dupree and Aaron Miller, and also coached fullbacks. He helped the Bulldogs to a 7-4 overall record and 5-3 Southern Conference mark this past season, their most SoCon wins since 1992.
“It’s a great opportunity for Craig,” Higgins said. “It’s exactly what he wanted to be, a head coach running a program of his own, hiring guys and developing players.”
But it’s also a loss for Higgins, who now must replace Candeto. Higgins said Citadel offensive assistant Cody Worley, a former Furman quarterback, would be a candidate for the job. But he will also interview outside candidates.
“We’ll talk with Cody, but we’ll also open it up and look for the best possible person,” Higgins said. “Craig actually missed a lot of training camp this year because he was sick, and Cody stepped right in and did a good job. The good news is we’ve got two established quarterbacks in Aaron and Ben, and they both know what they need to do to be successful.”
Higgins said he’s already received “tons of e-mails and calls” about the job, and hopes to have a coach in place by Feb. 1 before spring practice starts.
Candeto, meanwhile, steps into one the toughest D-III conferences in the country. The Ohio Athletic Conference is home to current national champion Mount Union and strong programs such as Baldwin-Wallace, Heidelberg and John Carroll.
There are four current NFL players from OAC schools: Pierre Garcon (Redskins) and Cecil Shorts (Jaguars) from Mount Union; London Fletcher (Redskins) of John Carroll; and Michael Preston (Titans) of Heidelberg.
“I’m very blessed to have this opportunity,” Candeto said. “It wasn’t one I was really looking for, and I didn’t know a whole lot about Capital. But as I did some research, I became more and more interested it. I think it’s great from a career standpoint and for what the university is about.”
At Capital, a Lutheran school of about 3,500 students, Candeto replaces Henry Stanford, who resigned after a 2-8 record in his third season.
But Candeto said it was not easy to break the news to Dupree, Miller and the other Bulldogs he has coached for two years.
“Very tough, really a lot of mixed emotions,” he said. “It was hard to call those guys on the phone and explain what’s going on. But I have confidence in those guys. They will do a great job and continue on what we started this year.”
The Citadel received a verbal commitment from punter/kicker Will Vanvick of J.L. Mann High School in Greenville. Vanvick, whose father and brother are Citadel graduates, averaged about 45 yards a punt last season.
That gives The Citadel at least four commitments, including Wando receiver Rudder Brown, defensive end Jake Smith of Greenville High School and running back Tyler Renew of Ben Lippen High School.