Archive for August, 2015

Citadel Notes: Football to play North Carolina in 2016

August 28, 2015

Jeff Hartsell

Aug 2015

Growing up in North Carolina, Mike Houston always wanted to play football for the University of North Carolina. “Unfortunately, I wanted them more than they wanted me,” said Houston, now head coach at The Citadel. Houston, who ended up playing tight end at Mars Hill College, will get to coach in UNC’s Kenan Stadium next year, when the Bulldogs visit the Tar Heels to conclude the 2016 season.

The visit to North Carolina highlights the Bulldogs’ 2016 schedule, which was released Thursday. The Citadel plays non-conference games against Gardner-Webb and North Greenville as well as an eight-game Southern Conference slate which will include new member East Tennessee State.

The 2016 schedule starts with SoCon foes Mercer and Furman, and includes just one home game in the first four. The Citadel will play five home games overall. “It’s a tough start to the season,” said Houston. “But I’m excited about having a full SoCon slate of eight games, and I’ll be excited to go up there to Chapel Hill and play against the Tar Heels. That will be a special deal.”

The Nov. 19 game at North Carolina will be the fifth meeting between the teams, the latest coming in 2009.

The Sept. 17 game at Gardner-Webb is a return game for the Big South team’s trip to The Citadel last season, a game The Citadel won by 37-14. The Parents Day game is set for Oct. 8 against Division II North Greenville, the teams’ first meeting. And homecoming will be Nov. 5 against SoCon foe Samford.

The Citadel football team opens its 2015 season Sept. 5 with a 6 p.m. kickoff against Davidson. To purchase tickets, call The Citadel Athletic Ticket Office at 843-953-DOGS (3647) or visit

QB battle
Houston said he’s close to naming a starting quarterback from between sophomores Dominique Allen and Cam Jackson, but wants to wait until after Saturday’s scrimmage to make a final decision. “I think Dominique is having a good week, and I think our first unit is practicing well,” Houston said Thursday. If he does not start at QB, Jackson will be a starting slotback.
(Editor’s note: sources say Dominic Allen will start the Davidson game at QB and Cam Jackson will start at slotback)

Pritcher added to baseball staff
The Citadel has named former Bulldogs pitcher Austin Pritcher as a volunteer coach. He replaces Aaron Gershenfeld, who has been hired at East Tennessee State. Pritcher, from James Island, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 19th round of the 2013 MLB Draft and pitched for the organization until April 2015. Over his career at The Citadel, Pritcher appeared 56 times on the mound with 53 starts. He tossed 321.1 innings, striking out 236 and earning an ERA of 3.87.

During his senior year with the Bulldogs, Pritcher was named Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year and earned a spot on the SoCon first team.

Citadel football 2016 schedule
Date Opp.
Sept. 3 at Mercer
Sept. 10 Furman
Sept. 17 at Gardner-Webb
Oct. 1 at Western Carolina
Oct. 8 North Greenville
Oct. 15 Chattanooga
Oct. 22 at Wofford
Oct. 29 East Tennessee State
Nov. 5 Samford
Nov. 12 at VMI
Nov. 29 at North Carolina


S.C. State graduate Mariel Cooper a quick fit for Citadel football

August 28, 2015
Mariel Cooper

Mariel Cooper

By: Jeff Hartsell

Mariel Cooper was in his first week at The Citadel this summer when tragedy struck. His 18-year-old brother was killed in a car accident back home in Sumter. Cooper, who had transferred to The Citadel from South Carolina State, was in a new place with new teammates, new coaches and not many old friends. But his new friends stepped up quickly.

“I had a rough patch when I got here,” Cooper said. “But the guys made me feel like a brother right away. The coaches, the whole team, they were constantly checking on me, telling me they were there for me. They did a wonderful job lifting me up and helping me through that time, making me feel part of the team.”

Cooper, a 5-11, 192-pound defensive back who played three seasons at S.C. State, has proven to be a quick fit with The Citadel football team. A graduate-student transfer with one season left to play, he’s already been a steadying influence on a young cornerback group. “No question, Coop was right on time,” said defensive passing game coordinator Joel Taylor, who coached Cooper at S.C. State. “He’s going to be good for us.”

The Citadel recruited Cooper out of Sumter High School, where he was a 2010 Shrine Bowl player and two-time all-state pick. But he chose S.C. State, and after redshirting one season helped the Orangeburg school win two MEAC championships and graduated with a degree in civil engineering technology. He made the MEAC all-academic team three straight years. But when Taylor left S.C. State for The Citadel, and defensive coordinator Mike Adams also departed, Cooper found himself with a set of new coaches, a degree and one more season of eligibility.

“They brought in some coaches with some different philosophies, and I’m not sure Coop felt he fit well with that,” Taylor said. “He gave me a call and said he wanted to make a change. He’s a hard-working kid with game experience, he won two championships at S.C. State and brings that to our defensive back room, which is kind of young. For me, it’s a win-win situation.” Said Cooper, “I wanted to maximize my college experience and play in another conference. Coach Taylor and I had a lot of success on defense at S.C. State. When I visited here, I loved the coaching staff and players, and felt like this was a new home for me.”

Tricky transfers

The Citadel has had grad-student transfers in the past, including quarterbacks Jeff Klein (from Auburn) and Willie Simmons (from Clemson) under former coach Ellis Johnson. A grad-student transfer is not part of the Corps of Cadets, but takes graduate school classes at The Citadel and is eligible for one season of football. Cooper will study sports management at The Citadel.

The Bulldogs also have a transfer from Georgia State in quarterback Grant Drakeford, who redshirted as a freshman last year at GSU. He will go through knob year as a member of the Corps of Cadets.

The military aspect and traditions of The Citadel, as well as the academic demands, make taking transfers tricky for the Bulldogs. “Those sophomore and junior transfers, we’re not going to get those kids,” said coach Mike Houston. “We’d have a hard time convincing them to come here, and if they came they’d have a hard time being eligible. We look at prep schools and freshmen, if the fit is there,” he said. “Or kids like Coop. The problem with finding a kid like Coop, a good fifth-year player, is that coaches are not going to want to let them go. We were fortunate with him.”

‘He showed out’
Cooper’s brother, Destin Wise, played football at Sumter High School and graduated this year. He was planning to go into the military, and had even considered attending The Citadel. But on June 14, Destin was killed in a car accident in Sumter.
“He was a big reason I came to The Citadel,” Cooper said.

Cooper had just reported to The Citadel for summer workouts when his brother died. He went home for a week to be with is family, then came back to his Citadel family. “He handled it as well as he possibly could,” Houston said. “His mom was very concerned about him, she called me and wanted to make sure we kept an eye on him. But he handled it great.”

So far, Cooper has handled things on the field just as well. Taylor and defensive coordinator Maurice Drayton wanted to start Cooper out with the second team when practice started. But when sophomore cornerback Ben Roberts came down with mononucleosis, Cooper was forced to begin practice with the first team. “We want guys to earn their spots,” Taylor said. “But that first day, there was no doubt that Coop is a ‘one.’ He came out here and showed out, and once he did that he gained instant credibility with the guys.”

Cooper’s experience will be valuable for a young secondary group that includes sophomore cornerback Dee Delaney. “It’s night and day in that (defensive back) room,” Houston said. “Last year, we started a former team manager (senior Walker Smith), a great kid, at one corner, and everybody else was a freshman. We had zero experience, and that showed up every day in practice. They were just immature and didn’t know what they didn’t know.

“What Coop has brought in is a work ethic, a way to approach practice. His work habits in the film room, the way he does everything is the difference between a fifth-year and a freshman. He has been a tremendous influence because everything the coaches preach to those corners, he’s doing.”

Baseball Bulldogs in the Pros

August 26, 2015

The Philadelphia Phillies released Citadel graduate Chris McGuiness from their AAA club. He was third on the team in games played for the ‘Lehigh Valley Iron-Pigs’ but his average was in the .230 range all season. Final stats include a .223 BA, 3 HR, & 36 RBI. He did lead the team in walks (55). We wish him good luck, and hope he can latch on with another club, maybe after MLB roster expansion September 1.

On a bright note, Joe Jackson is in an advanced high Single ‘A’ club – The Desert Mavericks in the Texas Ranger system with a .295 average and 63 RBIs in 92 games. He could move up to ‘AA” this year.

Mason Davis is doing pretty well in the Marlins program with a high – A club as well.

Bo Thompson is moving along, but has not shown the power expected of him by the Yankees single ‘A’ franchise – The Charleston Riverdogs.

Wojo is with the Houston Astros and is on the major league roster but has saw limited action on the mound so far.

The Citadel preview: Mike Houston confident Bulldogs’ defense will be better

August 24, 2015
The Citadel linebacker James Riley (right) and the Bulldogs will face a lot of experienced quarterbacks in the SoCon this season. FILE/PAUL ZOELLER/P&CSTAFF

The Citadel linebacker James Riley (right) and the Bulldogs will face a lot of experienced quarterbacks in the SoCon this season. FILE/PAUL ZOELLER/P&CSTAFF

Jeff Hartsell
Aug 20 2015

Only one Southern Conference football team graduated a starting quarterback from last season. That team was The Citadel, and the quarterback was Aaron Miller. That means two things for the 2015 Bulldogs — they need a new quarterback, and their defense better be prepared to face a stacked lineup of experienced quarterbacks in league play.

“Everybody’s got their quarterback back, except for us,” second-year Citadel coach Mike Houston said. “That’s going to be a big challenge, on offense and defense.” Either Cam Jackson or Dominique Allen will earn the starting QB job for The Citadel. And with 10 starters back on offense, odds are the Bulldogs will at least come close to replicating last season’s offensive numbers, when The Citadel’s triple option ranked No. 1 in the SoCon in total offense and rushing offense.

But the key to improving on last year’s 5-7 overall record (and 3-4 SoCon mark) will likely depend on how well The Citadel’s defense deals with those veteran SoCon quarterbacks.

Last season, the Bulldogs ranked seventh in league games in total defense, allowing 449 yards per game, and last in passing defense, giving up league-worst averages of 225 yards per game and 9.1 yards per attempt. SoCon quarterbacks had their way with the Bulldogs, averaging 12 carries for 84 yards on the ground and 16 of 24 (64.5 percent) for 225 yards through the air.

Five league quarterbacks rushed for at least 75 yards against The Citadel, led by Wofford’s Evan Jacks with 22 carries for 169 yards in a 17-13 Terriers victory. SoCon player of the year Jacob Huesman of Chattanooga ran for 81 yards and passed for 163; Mercer’s John Russ combined 96 yards rushing with 178 passing; and Furman freshman P.J. Blazejowski passed for 307 yards while running for 75. But the real devastation was wrought by Western Carolina’s Troy Mitchell, who totaled 422 yards of total offense in a 29-15 win, with 291 through the air and 131 on the ground.

Houston is confident that the defense will fare better this time around against those players. “First off, the kids are understanding the scheme much better than they did a year ago,” Houston said of the Bulldogs’ 4-2-5 look, which features two linebackers and a “bandit” position. “Our staff is more on the same page than they were a year ago. “(Defensive coordinator) Maurice Drayton did a great job with the staff this summer, developing game plans and bringing everything together, and I think he’s ready to take the defense and take off with it.”

The Bulldogs lose five starters on defense, including stalwarts Cam Mobley and Justin Oxendine up front, linebacker Carl Robinson and bandit Rah Muhammad and cornerback Walker Smith. “We graduated some very good players,” Houston said. “But some of the guys we will add into the equation will increase the team speed overall. I think you will see a better prepared, more athletic group than we had a year ago.”

Senior Mitchell Jeter and sophomore Jonathan King are back to anchor the defensive line, and ends Joe Crochet and Mark Thomas have plenty of experience. Junior linebacker Tevin Floyd was the team’s top tackler a year ago, and returns alongside junior James Riley. Bandit will require a new starter, with junior Dondray Copeland (6-2, 213) the top candidate.

Senior Mariel Cooper, a grad-student transfer from South Carolina State, should step into Walker’s cornerback spot, bringing experience to a secondary that includes sophomore corner Dee Delaney, junior safety Malik Diggs and senior safety Nick Willis.

“We understand we have a lot to work on,” said Riley. “Coach Houston came in last year and really changed the program, and maybe one year’s time was not enough to grasp everything. But now I think we understand, we have to play fast and attack the ball. Our mindset has definitely changed.”

On offense, the Bulldogs lose only QB Miller among the starters. All-SoCon pick Sam Frye leads five returning starters on the offensive line, while seniors Alex Glover and Brandon Eakins do the same for the receiver group. Fullbacks go three-deep with Isiaha Smith, Tyler Renew and Evan McField, and Cam Jackson will join senior Vinny Miller at slotback if he does not win the QB job.

Special teams returns both kicker Eric Goins and punter Will Vanvick, but the Bulldogs need more out of the return game after ranking fifth in punt returns and seventh in kickoff returns, with no touchdowns via return.

The schedule opens with FCS non-scholarship Davidson before a key SoCon matchup with Western Carolina. The Bulldogs will try to snap losing streaks against Charleston Southern (two) and Wofford (16). Four of the final six games are on the road, including the season-ender at South Carolina on Nov. 21.

The Citadel football Schedule 2015

August 24, 2015
Will Cam Jackson be the Bulldog QB or Slot back?

Will Cam Jackson be the Bulldog QB or Slot back?

Date Opp. Time

Sept. 5 Davidson 6 p.m.

Sept. 12 Western Carolina 6 p.m.

Sept. 19 at Georgia Southern 6 p.m.

Sept. 26 Charleston Southern 6 p.m.

Oct. 10 Wofford 2 p.m.

Oct. 17 at Samford 3 p.m.

Oct. 24 at Furman 1:30 p.m.

Oct. 31 Mercer 2 p.m.

Nov. 7 VMI 2 p.m.

Nov. 14 at Chattanooga 2 p.m.

Nov. 21 at South Carolina TBA

Citadel’s DaSean Daniels can no longer play, but he’s still a Bulldog

August 24, 2015
Former Citadel player DaSean Daniels (left), now a student-coach, talks with fullback Evan McField during a recent practice. BRAD NETTLES/P&CStaff

Former Citadel player DaSean Daniels (left), now a student-coach, talks with fullback Evan McField during a recent practice. BRAD NETTLES/P&CStaff

Jeff Hartsell
Aug 14 2015

It was in late spring when Citadel coach Mike Houston called DaSean Daniels into his office for the talk. Daniels, a freshman fullback from Atlanta, had collapsed during a practice on March 10, suffering from a brain aneurysm when a vein burst inside his skull. During two hours of emergency surgery, doctors at Medical University opened his skull and removed a blood clot that had formed, saving his life and leaving his football future in doubt.

The doctors kind of hinted at it and said most likely I would not be able to play,” said Daniels, who was left with a long scar tracing an arc back across the top of his head and around to the front of his ear. “But they never said for sure.”

Out of the hospital in less than two weeks, Daniels returned to class and went through The Citadel’s recognition day, when the military school’s “fourth-class system” for freshmen cadets comes to an end. But by the time Citadel players were ready for summer workouts, Houston knew that Daniels needed some closure, and some certainty on his future. “It’s something his dad and I talked about,” Houston said. “I knew DaSean kind of knew he couldn’t play again, but it was a talk we had to have. I wanted him to know he was still a part of us, and that we’d take care of him the same way as if he was playing.”

As the Bulldogs practice for their Sept. 5 opener against Davidson, Daniels is on the field with his former teammates, acting as a student-coach under offensive coordinator Brent Thompson. He remains on scholarship, but knows he can’t play football again, an idea he’s still coming to grips with. “It was hard when I first found out,” Daniels said after a recent practice. “And I don’t think it’s still really hit me yet. I think it will hit me when the games start. Nobody really enjoys practice, so I’m not missing much right now. But when everybody hits the field for the games, that’s when I’ll really miss it.”

‘I feel dizzy’
Daniels, who was listed at 5-10 and 220 pounds as a freshman fullback last year, had just carried the ball during an evening practice session last spring when he turned to teammate and fellow fullback Isiaha Smith. “I feel a little dizzy,” Daniels said to Smith, and that’s the last thing Daniels remembers until he woke up in the hospital. “I felt like I was waking up from a dream,” he said. “It really felt weird.”

Daniels had a “blood clot between the inside lining of his brain and the surface of the brain,” according to Medical University neurosurgeon Dr. Alex Vandergrift, who performed the surgery on Daniels. “A lot of patients with this type of injury are in high-speed accidents or tremendous falls and have additional brain injury that is not present here,” Vandergrift said last March. “He came in under very dire circumstances, with pretty significant neurological dysfunction, so he’s a very fortunate young man.”

While Daniels was in the hospital, Citadel alumni and members of the general public rallied in support, donating to a fund The Citadel established to defray his medical costs, and flooding his room with cards and flowers. “That helped me a lot,” Daniels said. “I realized how much people care, and how tight the alumni are and the school in general. Their support really helped a lot.”

DaSean Daniels (left) is now a student-coach after suffering a brain aneurysm last spring. He talks with running backs Donovan Ward and Isiaha Smith during practice. (Brad Nettles/P&CStaff)

DaSean Daniels (left) is now a student-coach after suffering a brain aneurysm last spring. He talks with running backs Donovan Ward and Isiaha Smith during practice. (Brad Nettles/P&CStaff)

‘A miracle’
Some days are better than others as Daniels continues to recover. He had to drop a couple of classes this spring, “because it was hard to sit through a full schedule of classes,” he said. And then there’s the matter of football, the game he loves and that was so crucial to his identity for so long. “It’s been tough on him,” said Smith. “But he’s handled it well, and he’s doing what he’s got to do. He’s still on the field with us, and I know he’s grateful for that. I am, too.”
Houston said there was never any question about Daniels remaining on scholarship, even if he could not play.

“When you recruit these kids and tell their parents, ‘I will take care of your son,’ they entrust you with the care of their child,” Houston said. “They become more than just a player. It’s a relationship you build. Going through everything that we did, we got to know his parents even better, and now he’s a part of us.”

Daniels has begun working out recently, and will work with Smith and the Bulldogs’ other fullbacks this season. “To come from what could have been six months ago and to see him now,” Houston said, “it’s nothing short of a miracle.”