When Jamey Chadwell was hired as Charleston Southern’s new football coach last January, Citadel coach Kevin Higgins was busy trying to put together a recruiting class.
Who: Charleston Southern at The Citadel
When; 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Johnson Hagood Stadium
Radio: 1450-AM; 106.3-FM
“But in the back of your mind,” Higgins said, “you think, ‘I wonder what they are going to look like in that first game?’”
In the intervening months, Bulldogs coaches have put a lot of effort into trying to figure out what they will face Saturday, when Chadwell brings his first CSU team to The Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium for the 2013 season opener.
To answer that question, Higgins and his staffers have pulled tape of Chadwell’s teams at Delta State last season and North Greenville College before that, and done research on the assistants hired by Chadwell at CSU.
“You look at your own staff and say, ‘Who has contacts, who knows different people?’” Higgins said. “And then you go from there.”
At Delta State and North Greenville, both Division II schools, Chadwell ran spread option offenses that asked the quarterback to run quite a bit. With senior Malcolm Dixon back at QB for Charleston Southern, that doesn’t seem likely to change.
Chadwell’s quarterback at Delta State last season, Missouri State transfer Trevor Wooden, led the team in rushing (543 yards, nine touchdowns) while hitting 52.1 percent of his passes for 1,520 yards and 12 TDs against 11 interceptions.
The Statesmen’s offense was balanced — 189.5 yards per game rushing and 188 passing — though the team went just 3-7.
In his final season at North Greenville, Chadwell had transfer QB Willy Korn from Clemson. Korn had the second-most carries on the team while the Crusaders averaged 249 yards rushing and 184 passing, compiling an 11-3 record.
Korn is on Chadwell’s staff at CSU as receivers coach, and offensive coordinator Gabe Giardina came with Chadwell from Delta State. The Bucs’ quarterbacks coach, Mark Tucker, was on Charlie Taaffe’s staff at The Citadel when the Bulldogs won the Southern Conference championship in 1992.
“We’re expecting the spread option, with a heavy, heavy dose of option,” Higgins said.
Whatever the Bucs do will center on Dixon, a 6-0, 195-pounder. In last year’s 49-14 loss to The Citadel, Dixon carried the ball a team-high 17 times for 55 yards and a TD, and hit 9 of 17 passes for 89 yards with one TD and one interception.
Dixon has some new weapons on offense in junior college running back Christian Reyes and former East Carolina receiver Donte Sumpter.
“Guys like that can make you a different team in a hurry,” Higgins said.
On defense, The Citadel expects a 3-4 look from the Bucs, who are experienced in the secondary and feature pass-rushing end Will Hunt (6-5, 253). Defensive coordinator Chad Staggs worked with Chadwell at Delta State and previously at CSU.
“You take all that in and you formulate a game plan,” Higgins said. “And when the cannon goes off Saturday, you hope they look how we thought they were going to look.”
There are six freshmen on The Citadel’s two-deep, all in backup roles — center Ryan Bednar, fullback Tyler Renew, wide receivers Rudder Brown and Jorian Jordan, tight end Nick Jeffreys and linebacker Tevin Floyd. Speedy slotback Devan Robbins is not on the two-deep, but is likely to see action, Higgins said.
The battle for the starting punting job between redshirt freshman Eric Goins and true freshman Will Vanvick will continue this week. Goins is a little ahead, according to Higgins, who said he won’t hesitate to start Vanvick if he’s ahead at week’s end.