As The Citadel's offensive line coach, Bob Bodine doesn't restrict his recruiting efforts to high school football players. He's not above casting a covetous eye toward Bulldogs on other parts of the team.
"When you are an offensive line coach, you are always recruiting," Bodine said this week before a spring practice session.
So when Bodine was searching for immediate help for his offensive line, he and head coach Kevin Higgins quickly settled on defensive tackle Keith Carter, a 6-0, 268-pound redshirt freshman from Tallahassee, Fla.
Carter is making the transition to offense this spring, and is already penciled in as the starting left guard. He has traded in jersey No. 33 for No. 55, and should bolster a line that struggled last year in the switch to the triple-option offense.
"Keith has been fantastic so far," Bodine said. "His attitude has been perfect, and physically he has done a lot in the offseason to help our team no matter where he played. But moving over to our side, his athleticism and his intensity are things we desperately needed."
Carter admits he was wary of the move at first. After redshirting as a freshman, he broke into the rotation at defensive tackle last season and finished with eight tackles, two for loss.
"At first I was kind of reluctant and I told them I needed some time to think about it," Carter said. "But I made my decision over Christmas break to do it. I know the team had a need, and they thought I could come in and be immediately effective. I had to put the team first and do what I had to do."
Bodine said the offensive line needed someone who could be ready to play a bit faster than an incoming freshman or a player who redshirted last season.
"The recruiting process is all well and good," Bodine said. "But we needed someone who was a little bit more of a finished product. We can't get transfers or juco kids here at The Citadel, so what is the fastest way to do it? I told Keith, the reason you got moved over is because you were the most advanced."
Carter, who is the son of former Florida State player Keith Carter, played some fullback in high school and has some experience with blocking.
"In the triple option, the line fires off the ball just like defensive linemen do, so I didn't have to change much there," he said. "But as far as schemes and blocking, it's completely different. I've never run the triple option before, so there is a lot to learn."
With Carter at left guard, the first-team line looks like this: redshirt sophomore Neal Strange (6-6, 307) at left tackle, rising sophomore Mike Sellers (6-0, 273) at center, sophomore Jim Knowles (6-0, 281) at right guard and redshirt junior Tyler Thornton (6-3, 244) at right tackle.
The right guard spot is the most up for grabs, with Jameson Bryant (6-2, 275) and Robert Finke (6-5, 291) also in the mix. Charles Coleman (6-3, 247) and Devin Bice (6-3, 245) are working at tackle.
The line struggled last season as the Bulldogs went 3-8 in their first season back in the triple option. The Citadel averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and 14.9 points per game, with only 13 rushing touchdowns all season. Even the center snap was a season-long issue, as the Bulldogs lost 23 of a remarkable 44 fumbles.
"In a lot of cases, the athleticism was there," Bodine said. "You can never get too athletic, so we'd like to improve there a little bit. But the biggest thing was the change in mentality, going from getting on the right people to actually trying to knock people around.
"In this offense, you've got to hit people as hard as you can and hope to knock them back. If you miss, you have to miss aggressively. Getting people on the ground is the name of the game."
And if Bodine's recruiting eye is correct, Carter can help the Bulldogs win that game.
"There will be a learning curve for him," Bodine said. "But by the time two-a-days roll around, we should have as close to a finished product as possible. Last year, Mike Sellers played center for about two weeks in two-a-days, and it showed a little bit.
"Keith has 15 days of spring ball, then all summer and then two-a-days before the season starts. I think will be a good move."