Archive for September, 2013

Bulldogs reeling after loss

September 30, 2013

  • Posted: September 29, 2013

Usually silent in defeat, The Citadel locker room was loud with the sound of hot tempers Saturday night. Voices were raised and doors slammed after a 24-17 loss to rival Furman before 12,693 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium, leaving the Bulldogs with a 1-4 record nearly halfway through a once eagerly anticipated football season.

 “We need a reality check,” said senior fullback Darien Robinson after The Citadel fell to 1-2 in the Southern Conference. “We talk a lot about what we want to achieve as a team, but we don’t go out there and play like it. We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and decide what we really want to do with this season.   “It could go a good way or a bad way, and we have to figure it out.”

 Furman (2-2, 1-0), which needed a last-second blocked field goal two weeks ago just to beat Presbyterian, avenged last year’s 42-20 loss to The Citadel 
with a backup quarterback 
polishing off the victory.  Freshman Duncan Fletcher, in for injured starter Reese Hannon, hit receiver Gary 
Robinson deep for 43 yards, 
setting up the Paladins’ go-ahead TD. Fullback Tanner Skogen scored from 13 yards out to give Furman a 24-17 lead with 9:43 left. 

The Citadel had two chances to tie it, but backup QB Aaron Miller’s pass on fourth-and-9 from the Furman 20 was behind slotback Vinny Miller, ending the Bulldogs’ final threat with 1:10 left. 

Two Fletcher kneeldowns set off a purple party in the visitors’ stands, while Bulldogs faithful were stunned by a third straight home loss  “We have been trying to get over the hump in winning some close games,” said Furman coach Bruce Fowler, now 11-15 in his third season. “Last week, we really squeaked a win out at the end, and this week maybe when it got down towards the end of the game, our guys drew on that experience.”

 The Bulldogs, meanwhile, must first find the hump 
before they can think about 
getting over it.  “We’re going to have to have people step up and become leaders and push through this adversity,” said Citadel QB Aaron Miller, whose 59-yard TD bomb to Robinson tied the score at 17-17 with 14:51 left. “It’s going downhill, and we need to stop it right now.”  Two of The Citadel’s first three losses featured unique brands of self-destruction — two dropped punts against Charleston Southern, failure to recover two onside kicks at Old Dominion — and this game was no different.

 An interception of an Aaron Miller pass by Furman corner Reggie Thomas set up the Paladins’ go-ahead TD. And two Citadel penalties were killers — a chop block on tackle Devin Bice when the Bulldogs had first down at the Furman 8 after a 36-yard run by Jake Stenson; and an intentional grounding call on QB Ben Dupree after his 32-yard pass to Vinny Miller, both in the third quarter.   A bad snap on the Bulldogs’ final drive didn’t help, either.  “Seemed like every time we hit a big play, we got a penalty,” said coach Kevin Higgins.

 After watching tape of The Citadel’s 59-58 loss at ODU, in which the Bulldogs ran for 453 yards, Furman’s defense stacked the box with nine players and dared the Bulldogs to pass.  The Citadel was held to 132 yards rushing out of 321 total, the first time since Higgins went to the triple option in 2010 that the Bulldogs had more yards passing than rushing.  “They were begging us to throw some play-action passes,” said Higgins, whose quarterbacks hit 13 of 22 passes for 189 yards and two scores, including Dupree’s 15-yard TD pass to Stenson. “But we didn’t do enough damage there.”

 Meanwhile, two long balls by Furman proved costly. After The Citadel cut the Paladins’ lead to 10-7 late in the first half, Hannon found receiver Gary Robinson on a mismatch against Bulldogs linebacker Rah Muhammad for a 36-yard ain. That set up Terry Robinson for his second TD run, a 2-yarder for a 17-7 lead just 24 seconds before the half.  The second long ball was Fletcher’s 43-yarder to a diving Gary Robinson in the fourth quarter, setting up the go-ahead TD. Safety Nick Willis was in position, but could not beat Robinson, who caught eight passes for 133 yards.

“We didn’t play the long ball very well,” Higgins said after Furman’s quarterbacks combined to hit 16 of 21 passes for 228 yards. “The one before the half really hurt us. We should have had a centerfielder there. On the second one, we had a centerfielder there but didn’t make the play.” 

Now, the Bulldogs face former 
SoCon power Appalachian State, stumbling toward FBS and the Sun Belt with a 1-3 
record after Saturday’s 27-24 loss to Charleston Southern. “Sounds like we and App State are in the same boat, with high expectations going in,” Higgins said. “We have to figure out how not to give up so many big plays, and how to get the running game going.”


Notes from the game: 

The Citadel played without slotbacks Dalton Trevino (knee) and Devan Robbins, a freshman who has left school for personal reasons … The last three Citadel touchdowns have come on passes, two against Furman and one against ODU, and two of them caught by slotback Jake Stenson … Linebacker Carl Robinson led the Bulldogs with eight tackles, and linebacker James Riley and safety Akeem Garnett had seven each … Justin Oxendine and Cam Mobley each had a sack; Oxendine had 2.5 tackles for loss.

 The Bulldogs wore throwback jerseys with a big block “C” on the front during pre-game warmups, but had to change to their standard uniforms for the game. Citadel officials said the SoCon had approved the throwback uniforms, but word apparently did reach the game officials. They ruled that the numbers on the front of the throwback jerseys were too small.


From Long Snapper to Holder

September 26, 2013


By Cadet Ryan Kilgallen

Austin Wiles, who wears No. 53 on the football team, has played in 138 snaps in his collegiate career.  Among those snaps, Wiles has yet to have a bad one as he is a perfect 138 for 138. The 5’10, 210-pound senior from Rock Hill spent the off-season working on his snapping and preparing for a third year as the starting long snapper.

With two weeks left in the Bulldogs’ summer camp, Wiles was called into Coach Kevin Higgins’ office to discuss the possibility of a new position.  The next day at practice, Wiles was holding snaps with the first team specialists. Many wondered why the coach would switch Wiles’ position if he is a top of the line long snapper.

Austin Wiles-WCU-2013-1

In my opinion – and possibly Coach Higgins’ — Wiles is more of a threat with the ball in his hands as he has the ability to make things happen when he touches the ball.   “I am just going to play where I am needed and do what is best for the team,” said Wiles.

After the first two games of the season, Wiles has six successful holds.  I wouldn’t be surprised if his perfect string continues.

Ryan Kilgallen is a member of the baseball team.

Briggs Leads The Citadel to Sweep of Savannah State

September 26, 2013
Katie Briggs is a Senior from Atlanta

Katie Briggs is a Senior from Atlanta

Savannah, Ga. – Katie Briggs drove home a team-high seven kills and was responsible for five assisted blocks as The Citadel completed its third sweep of the season with a 25-16, 25-18, 25-23 victory over Savannah State on Wednesday evening.

Briggs, one of nine Bulldogs to record a kill in the contest, committed just two errors in 12 attacks to finish with a .417 attack percentage. She was joined offensively by the front row combination of Bailey Kernodle and Lauren Hurt, who added four kills apiece.

The Citadel (4-11) limited Savannah State’s offensive production due in large part the combination of 12 digs by Erin Bucherl and the front row blocking of Briggs and Rachel Keefer, who were responsible in the Dogs’ 14-0 edge in assisted blocks.

Savannah State (0-16) was led offensively by the combination of Justice Dilworth (seven kills) and Bianca Brochu (six). The Tigers drove home 26 kills as a unit, however 22 errors proved to be their demise as they finished with a .045 attack percentage. The defense was anchored by the play of Bridgette Stephens (11 digs) and Bryana Gadis (eight).

The Bulldogs got off to a quick start in the first set as they jumped out to a 9-2 lead behind two kills and two service aces by Hurt. Savannah State methodically chipped away at that seven-point deficit with a 13-6 run, making for 16-15 contest following a series of kills by Brochu and Asiha Williams. The combination of four unforced errors by the Tigers and two kills each by Briggs and Kernodle over the duration of the set allowed the Cadets to complete the 25-16 victory.

Savannah State matched The Citadel’s intensity in the second set as the two teams fought through two early ties to reach a 9-9 impasse on a kill by Briggs. That sparked a 5-2 run by the Bulldogs, which included two Kernodle service aces, only to have the Tigers eventually draw even at 14-14. After gaining a slim lead following a Savannah State error, Keefer accounted for six straight points as the Dogs moved back in front 21-15. The Cadets allowed just two points throughout the rest of the set and completed the 25-18 win following consecutive kills by Kernodle and Briggs.

The back-and-forth battled continued into the third set as Savannah State eventually gained a two-point advantage, 13-11, following six ties in the first 22 points. The Tigers stretched that lead to four, 16-12, on a kill by Dilworth, only to witness an 8-4 run by The Citadel that knotted the set at 20-20. Savannah State refused to go away as the match reached an eventual 23-23 tie on kills by Brochu and Keefer, forcing the Tigers to call their final timeout. Ise d’Angelo delivered a timely kill for the Dogs that was quickly followed an attack error by Dilworth, as The Citadel completed the 25-23 sweep.

The Citadel begins Southern Conference play this weekend at McAlister Field House when it hosts UNC Greensboro on Friday evening at 6 p.m. and Elon on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m

Jackson Paces Bulldogs to Second Place Finish at SEARC

September 25, 2013




Lexington, Va. – The Citadel rifle team took second place in the first Southeastern Air Rifle Conference match of the season hosted by VMI, carding an aggregate team score of 4451.

The Bulldog marksmen took second place to No. 15 NC State in the conference air rifle match with a score of 2274, and earned a second place finish in the NCAA portion, falling just two points shy of North Georgia University. The Citadel regained the school rivalry flag against military foe VMI, topping the Keydets by 61 points, who took third place.

Robert Jackson, who led all Bulldog shooters last season with an air rifle average of 573.1, fired a 574 in the first match of his junior campaign to take 10th place. Richard Hunton and Nathaniel Moy carded marks 571 and 569, respectively, while Ashten Byrne shot a 560 to round out the top four scorers for The Citadel.

Jackson took third place overall and Hunton nabbed fourth in smallbore action, carding 554 and 549, respectively. Nathaniel Moy (546) and Charles Yeh (543) accounted for the final two smallbore spots on the Bulldogs’ scorecard.

“The team shot a great match and it was a strong beginning to a long season,” said coach William C. Smith. “We took home the VMI team flag and returned Big Red to our rifle range in our victory over VMI.”

The Citadel returns to action on Oct. 12 in its home opener against fourth-ranked TCU at the Inouye Marksmanship Center.

1. NC State – 2322
2. The Citadel – 2274
3. North Georgia – 2266
4. Wofford – 2203

1. North Georgia – 4453
2. The Citadel – 4451
3. VMI – 4390
4. Wofford – 4320
5. NC State – 2314

The Citadel Announces 2013-14 Basketball Schedule

September 25, 2013


Tennessee, Wake Forest, Navy and Nebraska on the schedule 

Click here for full schedule:

Charleston, S.C. – Citadel basketball head coach Chuck Driesell announced the team’s 2013-14 schedule on Monday, including 14 home games and meetings with two of the three NCAA Division I service academies.

The season opens on Nov. 8 with the third installment of the All-Military Classic when the Bulldogs take on host VMI in Lexington, Va., preceded by a game between Army and Air Force.

“The All-Military Classic has truly grown into a special event and I can’t think of a better way to kick off our 2013-14 season than playing on ESPNU in front of a national television audience,” said Driesell. “I know our players and fans will be excited to watch and be a part of this year’s tournament.”

The Citadel makes its home debut against in-state foe Presbyterian on Nov. 12 marking the first meeting at McAlister Field House between the two Palmetto State schools since 1982.

Also highlighting the non-conference schedule are November meetings with Tennessee (Nov. 18) and Wake Forest (Nov. 21). It marks the second time in the last three seasons that the Bulldogs have visited Knoxville and the third different ACC opponent that The Citadel has faced in Driesell’s time at the helm.

The Citadel opens December play in Annapolis, Md., against Navy before completing the non-conference road slate at Nebraska (Dec. 21) and Radford (Jan. 2). The Huskers and Cadets have faced off three times, and the Bulldogs will be heading to Radford for the first time in program history after the Highlanders visited Charleston a year ago.

The Citadel hosts three non-conference games during December, including Gardner-Webb’s first game at McAlister Field House in the series history on Dec. 7. The month culminates when the Bulldogs square off against College of Charleston (Dec. 29) for the first time since the Cougars joined the Colonial Athletic Association.

“Our non-conference schedule is once again very difficult and will give us a good read on how good we can be this season when conference play begins,” added Driesell. “I do like the fact that this year we have a better balance of home and away games during the months of November and December. This should help with our confidence and, of course, give our fans at home an opportunity to see us play a few more times in McAlister Field House than last season.” 

Southern Conference play opens on Jan. 6 when the Dogs host Chattanooga. The Citadel wraps up the month by hosting a three-game homestand that includes the last home SoCon meeting with North Division rival Appalachian State (Jan. 23).

One week later the Cadets go on a three-game road swing that includes meetings with Georgia Southern (Jan. 30), defending SoCon champion Davidson (Feb. 1) and Appalachian State (Feb. 6).

Lapointe appointed by Haley to Board of Visitors

September 24, 2013
Our Newest BOV member

Our Newest BOV member

Gov. Nikki Haley has appointed Greenville resident and 1985 Citadel graduate Greg A. Lapointe the newest member of The Citadel’s Board of Visitors, the college’s governing body.  Lapointe will serve a six-year term, replacing James M. McQuilla who has been appointed by the governor to a seat on the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education.

Lapointe, a 1993 graduate of the Graduate School of Banking of the South at Louisiana State University, brings to the BOV 28 years’ experience in the banking industry.  He is currently employed at South Carolina Bank and Trust where he serves as executive vice president and Northern Group Banking president.

Lapointe has served on numerous boards and commissions including the executive committees of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the Midlands Business Leadership Group and the Richland County Transportation Commission.  His son Jake is a sophomore at The Citadel.

“We thank Gov. Haley for appointing Greg Lapointe to The Citadel’s Board of Visitors,” said BOV Chairman Lt. Gen. W. Michael Steele.  “Greg brings to the BOV a valuable business and finance perspective that will help us to maximize The Citadel’s impact on the Lowcountry and South Carolina.”

Lapointe’s appointment to The Citadel’s BOV was made possible by Gov. Haley’s appointment of then-BOV member James M. McQuilla to the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education.  McQuilla, a 1988 graduate of The Citadel who in 1994 earned an MBA from Winthrop University, is chief executive officer of Professional Buyers Advantage.  He had served on the BOV since 2009.

The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education serves as the state’s coordinating board for public higher education and strives to promote quality and efficiency in the state system of higher education with the goal of fostering economic growth and human development in South Carolina.

“James will be missed on the BOV where he served as chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee.  His public and private sector experience combined with his passion for The Citadel made him an inspiring member of the BOV,” said Steele.  “He will be a tremendous asset to the CHE.”

Citadel’s Ben Dupree scores 5 touchdowns, but ODU survives shootout, 59-58

September 23, 2013
Ben scored 5 tds but the Dogs had 3 fumbles/turnovers

Ben scored 5 tds but the Dogs had 3 fumbles/turnovers


  By Jeff Hartsell, the Charleston Post & Courier

NORFOLK, Va. — Old Dominion could not stop Citadel quarterback Ben Dupree on Saturday night — until the Monarchs absolutely had to.  ODU cornerback Reggie Owens knocked Dupree out of bounds just short of the goal line on a 2-point conversion, preserving a 59-58 win for the heavily favored Monarchs before a sellout crowd of 20,118 at Ballard Stadium.

Dupree’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Jake Stenson pulled the Bulldogs to within a point with 1:39 left. The Citadel lined up for the tying extra point before coach Kevin Higgins called timeout and decided to go for the win with a 2-point try. On an option play to the left, Dupree looked as if he would beat the Monarchs’ defense to the pylon. But ODU strung out the play long enough for Owens to make the stop — his only tackle of the game.

“I thought I was going to get there,” said Dupree, who rushed for a school-record five touchdowns. “I had leverage on the (first) guy, and I think I beat him to the corner. But then another guy stepped up. I tried to lower my shoulder, but I know I didn’t get in.” Higgins said the decision to go for two was “an easy call.” “On the road, our defense was struggling to stop them and we were moving the ball effectively,” he said. “We missed it by 6 inches.”

On a night when the teams combined for 117 points and 1,108 yards, both coaches essentially gave up on stopping the other’s offense. That’s why Higgins went for two, and that’s why ODU coach Bobby Wilder called for two straight onside kicks in the third quarter. ODU recovered both, leading to 10 points, including a 52-yard field goal by Jarod Brown — the difference in the Monarchs improving to 2-2 and The Citadel falling to 1-3. “The object of doing that was to try and steal possessions, as if your defense had a stop,” Wilder said of his gambles. “We did the play twice in a row, and that really turned the game.”

Next season, ODU is moving up to FBS Conference USA, where the Monarchs must hope nobody runs the triple option. Citadel fullback Darien Robinson gashed the ODU’s tissue-soft defense for a career-high 227 yards and two touchdowns, the first 200-yard game for a Bulldog since 2006. Dupree added 149 yards on 24 tries, including TD runs of 13, 17, 33, 2 and 19 yards.  The senior QB also hit 5 of 8 passes for 115 yards, including a 52-yarder to Vinny Miller and the 23-yard TD pass to Stenson, who made a twisting grab on a back-shoulder throw.

“The one thing we can take from this game is a little bit of confidence,” said Dupree, who played the entire game for the second week in a row. “We moved the ball at will against an (FBS) team. Granted, they are not good against the option, but they are bigger than everyone in our league.” The Citadel’s defense did not fare as well against ODU quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who hit 35 of 42 passes for 363 yards and three TDs, including a 70-yard TD pass to Larry Pinkard for a 59-52 lead with 3:36 left. “They wanted to win,” Heinicke said of the Bulldogs. “We are a Conference USA team now, and it would have been huge for them to beat a Conference USA team. So they were coming all game and they were coming hard.”  Colby Goodwyn ran for 94 yards and two scores as ODU often snapped the ball with 20 seconds left on the play clock.

“We practiced at a high tempo all week so we could keep up with them,” said cornerback Sadath Jean-Pierre. “It was like a chess game, going toe-to-toe with them. But there were a few times they caught the defense a little bit off balance.”  The Bulldogs did not sack Heinicke once and had only three hurries in 42 pass attempts.  “Our offense was spectacular tonight,” said Citadel defensive tackle Derek Douglas. “They did everything they could to put us in a position to win. Defensively, we needed to step up at times and I think we failed a little bit there.”

The Bulldogs gave ODU extra chances with two lost fumbles and the onside kicks (though the Monarchs were offside and touched the ball too soon on the first one). The Citadel’s Walker Smith blocked a punt to set up one TD, but the Bulldogs’ defense could not force a turnover.  “We knew if we were going to win this game, it was going to be a wild affair,” Higgins said.

It was wild, but not quite wild enough for the Bulldogs.


Notes from Saturday’s game
The 117 combined points were the most in Citadel history … The Bulldogs’ 58 points were their most ever in a loss … Darien Robinson’s 227 yards were the most for a Bulldog since Gene Brown ran for 286 yards against VMI in the 1988 Oyster Bowl on the same field, Ballard Stadium … Ben Dupree now stands fifth in school history with 26 touchdowns … Robinson is now sixth in school history in rushing with 2,333 yards.

Tough Doesn’t Begin To Describe Andre Roberts

September 20, 2013

by: Darren Urban Posted 9/11/13

Andre has taken everything the MFL defenses have dished out.

Andre has taken everything the NFL defenses have dished out.











Popping up time after time after he was pounded to the turf in St. Louis, Andre Roberts showed his toughness, even if anyone who wondered about that hadn’t paid attention to what Roberts had gone through to get to this point.  As a rookie in the NFL, he suffered through a terrible training camp – enough so that onlookers wondered if the third-round draft pick would even make the roster. And even before that, the wide receiver attended The Citadel in college, a military school renowned for long, structured days and tough treatment of its freshmen.

“I always felt like I was a tough guy,” Roberts said. “Obviously, The Citadel was a tough school and I had to go through a lot of crap that I wouldn’t have had to go through at another school. It toughened me up a little bit. “It was mostly mental. That’s part of football. You have to go through getting hit, getting up the next play, and still being able to perform at 100 percent the following play. You have to be tough to be a football player.”

It wasn’t the eight catches (in nine targets) for a team-leading 97 yards Roberts had in the opener that attracted so much attention as much as the way he did it, absorbing two or three heavy blows as he made the grab in traffic while hanging on. “He made a couple of catches where he was interfered with and still made the catch when a lot of guys wouldn’t,” quarterback Carson Palmer said.

Coach Bruce Arians said in St. Louis, he saw the “grit” he thought Roberts had. It didn’t surprise teammate Larry Fitzgerald either, after watching Roberts grow from that inconsistent rookie to Fitzgerald’s closest friend on the team and solid sidekick to Fitzgerald’s Pro Bowl ways. In Arians’ perfect world, the two and Michael Floyd will continue to move around in the formation – Arians said “I don’t want anyone knowing who’s where” – and have big games.  Sometimes, that means absorbing a big hit or two along the way. “It’s part of our occupation,” Fitzgerald said. “You play long enough, you’re going to get smacked around. (Andre) showed tremendous toughness hanging on to the football and he showed the competitor he is. Throughout the season, I’m sure I’ll get my shot, and Mike will get his shot. We pride ourselves on making the tough catches.”

Roberts chuckled at the focus on the hits he handled in St. Louis. It wasn’t even the toughest day he’s had in that regard (he didn’t say which game was worse) and like Fitzgerald, he noted the inherent hazards of the position.  “I got a couple more big hits this game than usual, but as receivers, we’re in defenseless positions more often than not,” Roberts said. “When we come out of games, we’re not always feeling the best. “The biggest thing we usually tell ourselves is, we are going to get hit anyway, so we might as well catch the ball. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but that’s what we tell ourselves.”

Maybe Roberts is just moving into a more zen state of mind. With his contract set to expire after the season, Roberts admitted that he was worrying about his future a lot during OTAs and minicamps. Then he had a discussion with Arians.  “He pretty much told me not to let it stress me out,” Roberts said. “Of course, most guys in their contract year, they think of things they can’t control. I’m not thinking about it anymore. I’m just going to play to the best of my ability and let it play out.”

The focus is there, and the Cardinals hope it stays there when the ball is arriving at the same time as the defender. Those are the catches that can win games, and Roberts will deal with the rest after the game. “I did get a little massage (Tuesday),” Roberts said with a smile. “I might need another on Friday.”

Old Dominion scouting report

September 20, 2013

ODU's Ballard Stadium

ODU’s Ballard Stadium,  AKA “The Oyster Bowl”

Who: The Citadel (1-2) at Old Dominion (1-2)

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Ballard Stadium (20,068), Norfolk, Va.

Radio: 1450-AM

Sagarin Says: ODU by 13.5

What to know about Old Dominion: ODU, a school of some 24,000 students in Norfolk, Va., re-started its football program in 2009 after it had been dormant for almost 90 years. The Monarchs hired Bobby Wilder, an assistant at Maine, as their head coach and have gone 9-2, 8-3, 10-3 and 11-2 in their first four seasons. The last two years, ODU has faced Georgia Southern in the FCS playoffs, losing by 55-48 in 2011 and by 49-35 last year. QB Taylor Heinicke, a junior from Atlanta, won the Walter Payton Award as the top player in FCS last season. ODU is an FCS independent this season, ineligible for the playoffs as they prepare to join FBS Conference USA next season. Famous ODU alums: NASCAR crew chief Bootie Barker, women’s basketball player Nancy Lieberman, former Clemson hoops coach Oliver Purnell, Watergate burglar Frank Sturgis, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander.

All-time series: First meeting. The Citadel was scheduled to play East Carolina this season, but ODU arranged a deal where it would play ECU and the Bulldogs would go to ODU instead. The Citadel will earn $250,000 for the game.

Citadel coaches are worried about: QB Taylor Heinicke and his fleet of receivers. Junior Larry Pinkard has 18 catches and two TDs, and 6-2 junior Ben Roberts has 11 catches and three TDs. Heinicke also can run the ball — he’s the Monarchs’ No. 2 rusher — and 6-8, 328-pound guard David Born and 6-6, 330-pound tackle DJ Morrell lead a huge offensive line.

Emotional edge: The Bulldogs really have nothing to lose in this non-conference game at ODU, and a $250,000 guarantee check to gain. Would not surprise me if The Citadel defense came out blitzing, using their quickness on the edge (DE Mark Thomas) to get around ODU’s huge linemen and pressure Heinicke. The Bulldogs also need a few more of that 19-play drive at WCU to keep the ball out of Heinicke’s hands. ODU, meanwhile, has an eye on next year’s move to Conference USA and seems to be pointing toward its games against FBS foes. Witness this quote from Heinicke after last week’s 76-19 win over Howard:

“Now, hopefully we can win the next three games in a row, have a good bye week, and go up to Pittsburgh (Oct. 19) and put on a good show.”

Ellis Johnson Traces Long Coaching Career Back to The Citadel

September 20, 2013


By Brian Gargone

 Asst. Director of Media Relations

The Citadel Athletic Department








From:  A Tree Grows in Charleston: The Bloodline of Citadel Football ;   a series of  articles in the “Off The Collar” blog

Following a successful four years as a defensive end and cadet-student-athlete at The Citadel, 1974 graduate Ellis Johnson spent the next 39 seasons on the same side of the ball where he began his playing career, becoming known as one of the most respected defensive minds in college football. Johnson spent 16 of those years coaching defense in the Southeastern Conference, coached in four SEC Championship games, earned one national title and guided a number of athletes to successful playing careers in the National Football League. But perhaps the defensive mastermind of Johnson would have never been sparked if it was not for the influence of his first coaching gig at The Citadel in 1975.

After graduation, Johnson kicked around the idea of leaving football to pursue a career in business, but his interest in coaching grew when Bobby Ross asked the youngster to join him on his staff as a student assistant at The Citadel; a staff that included current household names such as Frank Beamer, Ralph Friedgen and Charlie Rizzo.  “Coach Ross was so meticulous and organized as a head coach and the rest of the staff was so unbelievable that it turned my lights on and got my fire going to get into coaching as a career,” said Johnson.

After one season under Ross, Johnson received an offer for his first coaching job as defensive coordinator at Gaffney High School. He would spend the next five seasons in the Upstate, including his first head coaching stint at Spartanburg High School from 1980-81.  During his two years as head coach, Johnson earned a 16-8 record and led the Vikings to a pair of playoff appearances. His early career successes lifted the young coach back to his alma mater in 1982 when he was named the linebackers coach of the Bulldogs.

After one season with The Citadel, Johnson accepted his first collegiate head coaching gig at Gardner-Webb where he led the Runnin’ Bulldogs to a 5-6 season. However, he decided to resign after one year to take a job as defensive coordinator at Appalachian State.  He spent the next six seasons climbing the collegiate football ranks, moving from linebackers coach at East Carolina (1985-87) to defensive coordinator at Southern Miss (1988-89), before landing his first SEC gig as the outside linebackers coach at perennial power Alabama.


Johnson’s prolific mindset made an immediate impact on Crimson Tide coach Gene Stallings as the team earned a 41-9 record, including an undefeated national championship year in 1992. Alabama’s defense ranked No. 1 that season against the run and in total defense. The Tide “rolled” off a 31-game winning streak and a 34-game unbeaten streak from 1991-93. The 1991 squad went 11-1 and all four of those teams played in bowl games.  His successes as a position coach in the SEC launched Johnson to his first FBS defensive coordinator position with Clemson where he helped coach the Tigers to two bowl games in his two seasons under Tommy West.

As his reputation began to build, so did Johnson’s resume, and in 1997 he was hired as Alabama’s defensive coordinator under head coach Mike DuBose. During his four-year reunion in Tuscaloosa, Johnson helped the Tide go 10-3 in 1999 with an SEC title and a spot in the Orange Bowl. His 1999 defense was No. 2 in the nation against the rush and No. 9 in total defense.










Then, the former Cadet, football player and assistant defensive coach returned to the place where it all began. Through the black gates of The Citadel.

On December 21, 2000, Johnson was named the head coach at The Citadel and was thrilled to be able to return to his roots.  “Charleston is a wonderful place to live. I didn’t see a lot of it as a Cadet, but I saw enough to know that I wanted to come back,” said Johnson. “From the time I graduated from there I realized what that Citadel education and the experience really meant.”

Johnson credits a lot of his success on the field to his experience while attending and coaching at The Military College of South Carolina. “I came from a very good family, two-parent home, two older brothers who went to West Point and played football and were great role models. I had another sister and a brother, who I don’t think made a B in high school, so we were a great family.

“I didn’t need The Citadel, at least I didn’t think I did, but in spite of all those things, I am what I am today because of The Citadel. A lot of my work habits, a lot of my network, a lot of my things that I do from the habits of my personality, my work habits and my organization. Things that I do, there’s a lot of structure that I got from that college education. Not just book sense but the overall educational value of it.”










Johnson was hired to rebuild a struggling Bulldog team that finished the 1999 season with a 2-9 record. He matched the team’s win total in his first season but improved in each of the next three years, culminating his Citadel coaching career with a 6-6 season in 2003.  “As a head coach at The Citadel my fondest memory was in the 2003 season when we beat Furman, Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, back-to-back-to-back. It was a sign that we had turned the corner and had things going in the right direction,” said Johnson. “That overall, instead of just one single moment, was the most memorable to me.”

Johnson resigned from The Citadel after the 2003 season to take a job as defensive coordinator under his former Crimson Tide colleague Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State. He coached the Bulldog safeties in 2004 and 2005 and the inside linebackers in 2006 and 2007. In Johnson’s final game, the MSU defense yielded just 231 yards of total offense to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl, holding the nation’s leading rusher, Kevin Smith, to nearly 70 yards below his season average.

 Johnson spent the 2008-11 seasons at South Carolina where he built and guided a perennial top 15 defense before leaving the Gamecocks to become the head coach at Southern Miss.

After a winless 2012 season, Johnson was fired from his head position with the Golden Eagles but was not unemployed long as the defensive mastermind accepted a position this season back in the state of Alabama, but this time Johnson will guide Crimson Tide rival Auburn’s defensive unit.  On Nov. 30, 2013, Johnson will coach his first “Iron Bowl” against Alabama.









To this day, the 61-year-old Winnsboro, S.C., native understands how important his time at The Citadel was to his illustrious career on the sidelines.  “In playing, the biggest challenge I faced is that I wasn’t very talented. The challenge of playing there is that you have a tremendous demand on your time. I can remember when we reported in as freshmen in two-a-days and between two-a-day practices we would have to go out and do military marching drills which in and of itself was not very hard, but in between two two-a-day practices, you were on your feet another hour and a half or two.

“Then, there was the academic side. The largest class I ever sat in was 23 people. I had classes as small as eight and nine guys so you got a very good education. The course curriculum was solid and the instruction was superior. To me, it was just a wonderful education, but it was very demanding. There was no rest area. The academics were tough. The military was tough and the football was tough. There were never any soft spots where you could get away. It was a demanding four or five years.”

There is no doubt The Citadel can be a challenging place to balance academics, athletics and Corps responsibilities, but Ellis Johnson proves that the hard work and determination gained while earning that coveted Citadel class ring is all worth it in the end.