The Citadel looking to add speed and defense

Citadel coach Mike Houston is looking for defense and speed in this recruiting cycle. (Paul Zoeller/Staff)

Hired on Jan. 9, 2014, Citadel football coach Mike Houston had less than a month to put together his first recruiting class. He managed to hang on to most of the players who had committed to former coach Kevin Higgins and add a few more to a 17-player class.

“It was a whirlwind,” Houston said.

Houston’s second recruiting class, which will be announced on National Signing Day on Wednesday, is the product of a much more methodical process, the coach said. It was a process that focused mainly on restocking the Bulldogs’ defense and adding to their team speed.

“It was a night and day difference from last year,” said Houston, who led the Bulldogs to a 5-7 overall record and 3-4 mark in the Southern Conference in his first season. “We were really able to identify what we needed in this class and what we needed as a team to upgrade and move forward.

“We started on this class last spring, to start our evaluation and gather all the information we needed, and we had a full year to recruit them. Most of the guys were in our camps and on our campus this summer and at our games this fall, and that really helps.”

The Citadel has verbal commitments from 16 high school players. Twelve played mostly defense in high school. The Bulldogs lost six seniors off the two-deep on defense from last year’s team, and will have at least four seniors on the defensive two-deep in 2015.

“Looking at our roster and the signing classes for the last several years, it’s been a challenge on the defensive line to sign enough of the kind of players we want,” Houston said. “That was a big focus in this cycle, and this was a good year for defensive linemen in the areas we recruit. There were more quality players than I’ve seen in the last several years, and we’re building what will be our future on that side of the ball.”

Among the defenders committed to The Citadel are brothers Jordan and Ja’lon Williams of Spring Valley High School in Columbia, and defensive end Noah Dawkins of perennial power Byrnes.

After signing four quarterbacks a year ago, The Citadel has a reported commitment so far from just one this year, Jordan Black of Vidalia, Ga. Shrine Bowl running back Rod Johnson of Ninety Six High School also has committed after rushing for 1,621 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior.

“The biggest thing we went looking for is speed,” Houston said. “Speed and athleticism, guys who can run no matter what position they play, even offensive line. The other thing we look for is guys that fit us character-wise and guys that can be successful on and off the field here at The Citadel.

“I’m excited because we are going to be able to sign the guys that we went after from the get-go,” he said. “A lot of times, you don’t get the guys you really want, and have to go to the second or third guy. A lot of these guys we were in pretty heavy battle for with other SoCon and FCS schools. so I’m really pleased with the quality of the guys we were able to get.”

The Citadel’s spring practice will start Feb. 17, with the spring game set for March 14. The primary focus will be finding a quarterback to replace starter Aaron Miller. Houston said rising sophomore Dominique Allen will compete with redshirt freshmen Shon Belton and Jalen Lampkin, as well as rising junior Dane Anderson for the starting job.

Rising sophomore Cam Jackson, who converted from quarterback to slotback last season, will remain at slotback for spring practice, Houston said. Jackson ran for 505 yards and three touchdowns before fracturing bones in his hand late in the season. He’s been cleared for spring practice.

Linebacker Carson Smith will not return for a fifth season, Houston said. The honor student in electrical engineering has taken an engineering job, Houston said.

Defensive lineman Houston Tyler has transferred to Oklahoma Baptist, an NAIA school near his home in Oklahoma City.

Safety Nick Willis will be limited in spring practice after having surgery on his shoulder.

Pos. Name Ht, Wt. Hometown

QB Jordan Black 6-1 185 Vidalia, Ga.

RB Rod Johnson 5-11 191 Ninety Six

DE Isaiah Hawkins 6-1 235 Alpharetta, Ga.

DE Noah Dawkins 6-1 220 Duncan

DE Kevin Graham 6-2 249 Rabun Gap, Ga.

DL Attorney Gallman 6-2 250 Hiram, Ga.

LB Phil Davis 6-2 200 Powder Springs, Ga.

S Aron Spann 6-2 205 Spartanburg

S Khafari Buffalo 6-2 185 Sumter

K Brady Cormier 5-10 167 Beaufort

DL Ken Allen 6-2 287 Elberton, Ga.

LB Jordan Williams 6-2 195 Columbia

DL Ja’lon Williams 6-3 225 Columbia

OL Tyler Davis 6-2, 290 Pawleys Island

DB Curtis Nixon 6-1, 175 Folkston, Ga.

DB Tyler Jackson 6-2, 185 Mobile, Ala.