Citadel football coach Kevin Higgins isn't quite ready to call him the starting quarterback, but freshman Ben Dupree has taken steps in recent days toward winning the four-man race for the job.
Dupree, a 5-9, 180-pounder from Harrisburg, Pa., has overtaken redshirt freshman Sam Martin and is running with the first-team offense in practice. Martin is now No. 2, with transfer Blane Woodfin and freshman Matt Thompson battling for the third spot.
"Ben is throwing the ball well, and his decision-making is getting better," Higgins said after Tuesday morning's practice. "And with the ball in his hands, he's able to make some plays for us. So we'll keep evaluating him every day and see if he can handle the pressure."
If Dupree holds on to the top spot through the Sept. 4 season opener against Chowan, he would become the first true freshman to start the season at QB for the Bulldogs since Mazzie Drummond in 2001.
But Higgins said he's not close to being ready to make that call.
"Not yet," he said. "We're still evaluating. We learned last year, when we ended up playing with four quarterbacks, that anything can happen. We want everybody to know that there's a chance (they could play), especially in this offense, because guys can get banged up."
Higgins recruited Dupree and Thompson with the Bulldogs' new triple-option offense in mind.
Dupree was a standout athlete in football and basketball at Susquehanna Township High School, leading his football team to a 12-2 mark and his basketball squad to a record of 32-3 as a senior.
"He throws the ball better than he did in high school on his tapes," Higgins said, "and that's encouraging. He's got good leadership skills, command of the huddle, and you can tell that he doesn't get rattled, at least thus far. He's got good poise on the field and has good quickness.
"He can take the ball and turn up north and south and get valuable yards. He still has to work a lot on protecting the football, as most guys do. His ball security is not where it needs to be right now, and he still has to learn how to operate the offense."
Dupree is not the only freshman making an impression in camp. Fullback Darien Robinson, a 6-0, 209-pounder from McKeesport, Pa., and slotback Terrance Martin, a 6-0, 193-pounder from Cown, Tenn., are making bids for playing time, as are tackle Charles Coleman (6-3, 247) of North Augusta and center Mike Sellers (6-0, 273) of Fort Dorchester High.
"Robinson has shown flashes that he will be a good player, and Martin has shown us he can be very good as well," Higgins said. "Coleman is going to be a good player, and Sellers could really be special in this offense. He's exactly what you are looking for at the center position. He's had a real challenge with exchanges, because he's never done that before. But he's getting better, and if he can keep progressing, he'll have a chance to be in the mix."
On defense, Higgins said freshmen Trevon Davis (5-11, 205) and Jamal Allen (5-10, 176) have stood out at linebacker and cornerback, respectively.
"Davis moves very well and is very instinctive, but of course has a lot to learn," Higgins said. "And Allen has very good man-to-man skills and ball skills."
--Redshirt freshman Keith Carter was with the first-team defense at tackle Tuesday, battling redshirt junior Quintin Turner for a starting job … Starting tackle Neal Strange missed Tuesday morning's practice after getting "banged on the head," Higgins said.
--The "Meet the Bulldogs" scrimmage is set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Maybank Triplets Practice Facility on campus. It's free and open to the public, with an autograph session following the scrimmage in McAlister Field House.
Refreshments and giveaways will be available at McAlister Field House starting at 1 p.m.