It's not true that Citadel inside linebackers coach Blake Harrell has been wondering around Seignious Hall during fall camp, looking for something to do. It is true, however, that Harrell's crew is the most experienced and perhaps the most talented position group on the team.
"They have a good idea of what they are doing," said Harrell, who coached at Western Carolina last year and also is special teams coordinator.
Says defensive coordinator Maurice Drayton, "Those guys are the heart of the team."
Senior Carl Robinson and junior Carson Smith, who man the "Mike" linebacker spot, led the team in tackles each of the last two seasons, Robinson last year and Smith in 2012. Junior James Riley and sophomore Tevin Floyd, at the "Will" linebacker, proved themselves over the last two years when Robinson and Smith both missed time with injuries.
With all four healthy and playing well, coach Mike Houston expects big things from the inside linebackers.
"I've told those guys, in my book we have two groups of starters," he said. "We've got for guys capable of starting in the Southern Conference. That allows us to use them on special teams, to keep them fresh throughout the game, and they all have to prepare every day to be a starter."
Robinson (6-1, 245) is coming off an ACL tear suffered late last season, but he still led the Bulldogs with 92 tackles.
"He's moving around great," Harrell said. "You'd never know he had an ACL."
Smith (6-2, 230) missed last season with a fractured right ankle, but also seems to be at full speed.
"He's like a coach on the field out there," Harrell said.
At the weakside backer, Riley (5-11, 215) had a breakthrough season last year, finishing second on the team with 76 tackles. But he finds himself behind the 6-1, 230-pound Floyd on the depth chart.
"Tevin is probably playing as well as any of them," Harrell said. "That's pretty exciting for such a young kid."
Freshmen Myles Pierce (6-0, 227) and DeSean Daniels (5-10, 220) show promise for the future, Harrell said.
The "Bandit" linebacker spot is in equally good hands with 5-11, 210-pound senior Rah Muhammad, who has played in 29 career games and made 29 tackles last season. Behind him is one of the most impressive freshmen in fall camp, Israel Battle (6-2, 213).
"Battle has come in and done a great job of picking up the schemes and of pushing Rah," said outside linebackers coach Tripp Weaver. "We're going to get his feet wet on special teams, and I have no problem throwing him in there at any time during the game."
Sophomore Dondray Copeland (6-2, 220) is beginning to fulfill his potential, Weaver said.
"For him to take the next step, he has to work on tackling and being more physical," Weaver said. "He's made great strides since the spring, and I think he'll be a big factor on special teams."
Previously in this series:
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