Fullback is a crucial position in the triple-option offense. Think of workhorse Everette Sands leading The Citadel to a Southern Conference football championship in 1992; of Georgia Southern's Adrian Peterson averaging 6.6 yards per carry for his four-year career, winning the Walter Payton Award in 1999 and carrying the Eagles to two national championships; of Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer rushing for 1,395 yards and 14 touchdowns to lead the Yellow Jackets to an ACC title just last season.
When Citadel coach Kevin Higgins began to ponder who could play fullback in his new triple- option attack, he immediately flashed on one name: Terrell Dallas.
First sergeant is a crucial position in the life of a company at The Citadel. He's third in command, traditionally the top-ranking junior, and is responsible in large part for the day-to-day operation of the company: status reports, strength reports, room arrangements. When Delta Company TAC officers reviewed the class of 2012 for first-sergeant candidates, they also settled on Terrell Dallas.
Thus begins what Dallas, a 6-0, 205-pound junior from Fernandina Beach, Fla., may well remember as the busiest year of his life. All he is expected to do is to produce big yards for the offense; help run the lives of the 108 members of Delta Company; help bridge the perceived gap between athletes and the Corps of Cadets at The Citadel; and help Higgins achieve his stated goal of "rebuilding the reputation" of Citadel football after last spring's Miguel Starks debacle.
Dallas is confident he can get it all done.
"People told me it was going to be pretty hard, there is a lot of work as first sergeant," Dallas said. "But I think with the people backing me in the company, I'll be all right. I'm used to time-management from playing sports year-round -- baseball, basketball, football, weight lifting, along with academics, ever since high school. So it's kind of second nature for me."
A football player with rank in the Corps of Cadets is not second nature at The Citadel, however. Citadel professor William Sharbrough, the athletic department's faculty representative for the last 10 years, can't recall any football players with rank as high as first sergeant during his tenure.
Former Citadel basketball coach and player Ed Conroy was a lieutenant colonel in the Corps as a senior in 1989, and Citadel alums recall that All-American linebacker Brian Ruff was Charlie Company commander in the 1970s, and that baseball player Dickie Jones was regimental commander, the highest ranking cadet at the military school, in 1976.
In those days, being a college athlete -- especially a football player -- was not the year-round commitment that it is now.
"In the recent past, it's been rare for any athlete to hold rank in the Corps, especially in line positions," Sharbrough said. "I would think it would be really hard to do both jobs."
At The Citadel, tactical officers who live in the barracks with the cadets recommend candidates for rank, based on their performance in the Corps and in the classroom. The candidates go through an interview process with the rank board before being selected.
"When the TAC officers came to me and said, 'We really like Terrell Dallas, we'd like for him to have rank,' I thought it was a great idea," Higgins said. "That's something we've talked about as a team, and I've tried to encourage players to get rank and be a role model on campus. I think Terrell was lukewarm about the idea at first, but with the encouragement of his TAC officers and teammates and the guys in the Corps, he decided to do it."
Dallas is one of 20 company first sergeants on campus, outranked by only six juniors, according to Sharbrough.
"I felt it would help the team a lot," Dallas said. "Coach Higgins said our mission this year is to rebuild our reputation. I think with me and my teammates stepping up in the Corps, it will help rebuild our reputation with the Corps and with the public."
That reputation took a hit last spring with the arrest of Starks, a third-year player in line to start at quarterback, on kidnapping and burglary charges in two separate home-invasion cases.
"I want (the Corps) to know that the stereotype of us wanting to do nothing with the Corps, that we only go to school to do our own thing, is false," said Dallas, a computer science major. "A lot of us do take the time to appreciate the school and the traditions that it has."
Higgins said Dallas' leadership in the Corps has shown up on the practice field, as well.
"He's a different player now, from a leadership standpoint," Higgins said. "He's holding guys accountable, he's helping younger guys and being a role model for us. That's what helps a program grow, when you have a lot of guys doing that."
And then there's football, of course. The Bulldogs are preparing for their sixth season under Higgins, who is 24-32 with one winning record, a 7-4 mark in 2007. But they also are starting over in many ways, bringing in seven new assistants and installing the triple option after losing All-American receiver Andre Roberts to the NFL.
With either of two true freshmen --Ben Dupree or Matt Thompson -- certain to start at quarterback, the pressure will be on Dallas and slotbacks Van Dyke Jones and Rickey Anderson to produce. Dallas ran for 357 yards and three touchdowns on 94 carries a year ago; those numbers must increase dramatically for the Bulldogs to compete in the SoCon this year.
"We really like Terrell in this position," Higgins said. "When you look at Georgia Tech and Navy and teams that run this offense successfully, it is the B-back (fullback) who typically gets a lot of yards. You look for an oversized tailback with good speed and change of direction who is also big enough to take the hits every single play. For us, that's Terrell."