After a 4-7 season in his first year at The Citadel, the late Charlie Taaffe needed to find a quarterback to run his wishbone offense.
Taaffe scoured his roster and picked a 5-11, 175-pound defensive back out of the Bulldogs' secondary and installed him at QB.
All Gene Brown did in 1988 was rush for 1,058 yards and 16 touchdowns and lead The Citadel to an 8-4 record and the Division I-AA playoffs. He also ran for a school-record 286 yards in a game against VMI.
That season kicked off the Bulldogs' glory years under Taaffe, and earned Brown a spot in The Citadel Athletic Hall of Fame.
Citadel coach Brent Thompson is hoping some of that history can repeat itself, as former defensive back Jaylan Adams makes his debut as the Bulldogs' starting quarterback on Feb. 27 at Mercer as the Southern Conference's spring football season begins.
Adams, a 5-10, 165-pound redshirt sophomore, was moved from defensive back to QB last spring, and played sparingly last fall as the backup to starter Brandon Rainey.
"I believe he's ready," Thompson said. "He's had two really good scrimmages this spring, and his preparation in the fall to be the starter was spot on. He prepared himself to go in against Army and played a good solid half, and played a few series against Clemson.
"This offense will see a little bit of a change because he's got a different skill set than Brandon did, and Brandon had a lot more experience. So you will see some different things as we adapt and adjust."
It's not like Adams is brand new to quarterback.
He played the position for four years at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn., which produced a QB of some regard named Steve Spurrier.
As a senior at Science Hill, Adams accounted for more than 3,000 all-purpose yard and led his team to a 7-3 record and a playoff berth. He completed 103 of 169 passes (61 percent) for 1,630 yards and 12 touchdowns, and led the team in rushing with 1,431 yards and 22 TDs, averaging 8.4 yards per carry. In a game against Hardin Valley, Adams played one snap on defense — and made a game-saving interception.
Upon arrival at The Citadel, Adams was moved to defense. But that didn't last long.
"He was a quarterback in high school, and we always knew that he had it in him," Thompson said. "He was a little bit down the depth chart at defensive back, and we were looking for a dynamic that we didn't necessarily have at the QB position. You want to always be changing and adapting to meet your offense's needs, and I think that's what Jaylan has done for us.
"About midway through last spring, we realized he could do it, and he's got a lot of things we are looking for."
Last fall, he played in the second half against Clemson and rushed for 50 yards on 12 carries, missing on his only pass attempt. In a 14-9 loss at Army West Point, Adams again came on in the second half to lead the team with 55 yards on 14 carries, and hit 3 of 4 passes for 20 yards.
Behind Adams is redshirt sophomore Darique Hampton, who played QB at Goose Creek High School, and true freshman Graeson Underwood from Dutch Fork High. In an emergency, redshirt freshman Cooper Wallace would move back to QB from slotback.
Mercer, which lost its spring opener 31-14 to Wofford last week, also is starting a young QB in true freshman Carter Peevy. The 6-3, 209-pounder hit 11 of 24 passes for 131 yards against the Terriers.
Mercer has a new head coach in Drew Cronic, but the Bears will be very familiar with The Citadel. Former Citadel assistants Bob Bodine and Joel Taylor are on Cronic's staff, Bodine as co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach and Taylor as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
Among at least nine transfer players is former Citadel linebacker Jordan Williams, a 6-3, 220-pounder from Spring Valley High School. Williams played several positions during his time at The Citadel, and is a backup at Kat linebacker for the Bears.