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September 22, 2012The Pack hopes to close out its non-conference schedule at 3-1 with a win over The Citadel today at Carter-Finley Stadium.
The Bulldogs though come in 3-0 after back-to-back wins over top-10 FCS opponents and have climbed to No. 14 in the FCS rankings themselves.
Here is a look at The Citadel's projected starting lineup and key reserves in this week's Scouting The Opposition.
Strengths: The Citadel's option attack has generated amazing numbers against Charleston Southern and Appalachian State, and took care of business in the upset victory over Georgia Southern.
The Bulldogs are averaging 41.3 points, 370.0 rushing yards and 96.0 passing yards per game, and have been relatively solid in only turning the ball over on three fumbles.
Junior quarterback Ben Dupree makes the option fly, literally, with his big-play speed. He might be just 5-9 and 185 pounds, but teams haven't been able to slow him down. He has rushed for 349 yards and four touchdowns on 54 carries.
Junior fullback Darien Robinson and senior running back Rickey Anderson have been the primary backs, with senior VanDyke Jones mixed in. Robinson (6-0, 220) leads the team with 29 carries for 241 yards and two scores, while Anderson (6-0, 205) has 23 attempts for 212 yards and five touchdowns.
The Robinson, Anderson and Dupree trio battled South Carolina's defense in The Citadel's 2011 season finale, which the Gamecocks won 41-20. South Carolina needed a pair of touchdowns at the end of the third quarter and in the early stages of the fourth to build a commanding 34-13 lead.
Robinson had 20 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown, and Anderson finished with eight attempts for 69 yards and a score. Dupree was slowed down, recording 61 yards on 18 carries. The Bulldogs attempted just two passes the entire contest.
Jones is more of a wingback at 5-10 and 190 pounds, but has rushed 11 times for 58 yards and a score, and his backup Vinny Miller, who is a 5-10 and 200-pound freshman, has 10 carries for 83 yards and a score.
The Citadel offensive line is led by junior center Mike Sellers, junior left guard Keith Carter and junior right guard Jim Knowles.
Sellers (6-0, 290) was named The Citadel's Offensive Player of the Year and first-team All-Southern Conference last year, and he has made 16 career starts. Carter (6-0, 280) has 14 career starts at left guard, and he was elected team captain this season. Knowles is the biggest of the starting linemen at 6-0 and 310 pounds, and he started 10 games a year ago at right guard.
Junior left tackle Devin Bice (6-3, 275) is starting for the first time this season. Junior Cullen Brown has played both tight end and right tackle for the Bulldogs. The 6-4, 255-pounder has 14 career starts - 11 at tight end and three at right tackle - and became an offensive linemen a week before the 2012 season.
Weaknesses: The Citadel completed only 34 of 75 passes for 354 yards with a touchdown and seven interceptions last year. To put that in perspective, NC State quarterback Mike Glennon was 36-of-55 passing for 306 yards with five touchdowns in one game last year against Maryland.
Sophomore Aaron Miller has been inserted when the Bulldogs want to pass this season. Miller has connected on 9-of-13 throws for 206 yards, while Dupree has completed 3-of - passes for 82 yards with a score.
Junior wide receiver Matt Thompson (6-1, 205) has emerged as the top deep threat, catching four passes for 128 yards. Senior backup Domonic Jones (6-5, 200) has caught three passes for 70 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown pass against Georgia Southern.
Senior wide receiver Greg Adams (5-9, 175) has two catches for 28 yards. Sophomore tight end Alex Glover (6-3, 230) hasn't caught a pass yet, but is an active blocker.
Player To Watch - Junior Quarterback Ben Dupree: The speedy Dupree showcased his big-play ability with 57- and 46-yard scoring runs against Appalachian State, and he finished with 20 rushes for 180 yards in the win. Dupree has rushed for at least 77 yards in all three games this season. The Harrisburg, Pa., native rushed for 645 yards and eight touchdowns on 177 carries, and was 22-of-46 passing for 192 yards with three interceptions, last year.
Player To Watch - Junior Fullback Darien Robinson: The main ball carrier for The Citadel the last two years, Robinson led the Bulldogs in rushing in 2011 with 136 attempts for 862 yards (6.3 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns. The McKeesport, Pa., native averaged 78.4 yards per game and had a long run of 67. He added four catches for 41 yards. Robinson has kept his pace and topped 100 yards in two contests this season - 113 yards and a score on 13 carries against Appalachian State, and 120 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries against Charleston Southern.
Key Matchup: Robinson and NC State fifth-year senior middle linebacker Sterling Lucas should bump heads more than a few times Saturday. Lucas knows the first priority against option teams is to stop the fullback dive up the middle.
Strengths: The Citadel returns three of its top eight tacklers from last year - senior defensive end Chris Billingslea, sophomore inside linebacker Carl Robinson and junior cornerback Brandon McCladdie - and the Bulldogs' defense is off to a solid start. Opponents are averaging 21.0 points, 244.7 rushing yards and 103.3 passing yards per game. The Bulldogs have four sacks, two interceptions and five fumble recoveries in three games.
Billingslea (6-5, 265) has 19 tackles and a sack in three games this season to lead the defensive line. He has gained 20 pounds since last year.
All three linebackers, led by Robinson, have experience from last year, combining for 31 games played in 2011. Robinson (6-1, 235) leads the team with 32 tackles this season, with one tackle for loss, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles. He had 42 tackles in nine games during his freshman season last year.
Sophomore Rah Muhammad (5-11, 205) is second on the squad with 24 tackles, including 14 against Georgia Southern, and sophomore Carson Smith (6-2, 225) is fourth with 17 and an interception.
The secondary has a few players with experience from last year, including senior safety Davis Boyle and junior cornerback Brandon McCladdie. Boyle is joined by freshman Nick Willis at safety, and junior Sadath Jean-Pierre gets the nod at cornerback.
McCladdie (6-1, 190) has made 11 tackles and forced three fumbles, while Jean-Pierre (5-10, 175) has eight tackles. Boyle (5-10, 190) has made seven tackles, and Willis (6-2, 200) has produced 14 tackles, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.
Senior safety Austin Boyle, sophomore safety Julian Baxter and senior cornerback Keith Gamble all had at least 20 tackles last year. Boyle is the twin brother of Davis Boyle, and had 31 tackles at linebacker last year. Gamble added 24 tackles and Baxter 20 a year ago.
Defensive Weaknesses: The rushing yards allowed is an alarming figure. Georgia Southern rushed for 307 yards on 58 carries, while Appalachian State rolled up 253 rushing yards on 32 attempts.
Billingslea has a pair of sophomores next to him at defensive tackle and a junior at defensive end in Bay Amrhein (6-2, 235), who has nine tackles and two tackles for loss.
Justin Oxendine (6-3, 265) has 13 tackles, one tackle for loss and two fumble recoveries at one defensive tackle spot, and sophomore nose tackle Cameron Mobley (6-0, 270) has just one tackle. Backup redshirt freshman defensive tackle Colin Parsons (6-3, 260) has 10 tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.
Player To Watch - Senior Defensive End Chris Billingslea: The Fort Mill, S.C., native was named preseason first-team All-Southern Conference and has played in 36 games in his career with 31 consecutive starts. Billingslea had 53 stops, 11 tackles for loss, two sacks and three fumble recoveries last year. He also had 47 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2010, and was a valued reserve his freshman year, before starting the last six games and finishing with 29 tackles and two sacks.
Player To Watch - Sophomore Inside Linebacker Carl Robinson: The Bulldogs' leading tackler is averaging a shade more than 10 stops per game. He had 14 tackles and two forced fumbles against Georgia Southern, and followed with 13 against Appalachian State. The Irvington, Ala., native started six of the last seven games last year and had a season-high 10 tackles against Samford.
Key Matchup: NC State typically likes to pass the football to set up the run, but The Citadel's opponents have gashed them on the ground this season. Redshirt sophomore running back Tony Creecy and senior running back James Washington should get the chance to rack up some big yardage and take advantage of The Citadel's defensive front.
Strengths; Senior kicker Thomas Warren is 4 of 6 on field goals, with a long of 42 yards against Georgia Southern. He missed a 30-yarder against Charleston Southern and a 51-yarder against Appalachian State last Saturday. Freshman Austin Jordan handles the kickoff duties and has seven touchbacks on 23 attempts.
Senior punter Cass Couey might not be called upon often, but has been good when he does. Couey is averaging 44.2 yards on six punts with a long of 66. He has landed three inside the 20, had four fair caught and one go for a touchback through three games.
The Bulldogs have had just two punts against them this season, with one of them resulting in Carson Smith returning a blocked punt eight yards for a touchdown against Appalachian State. Wide receiver Domonic Jones returned the other punt 30 yards.
Gamble averaged 23.7 yards on three kick returns, with a long of 40 yards.
Billingslea was also able to block two kicks last year, and the Bulldogs had four blocked kicks.
Weaknesses: Opponents have 14 kick returns for an average of 26.5 yards, with a long of 53. The first three opponents didn't return a punt against The Citadel. NC State and punt returner Rashard Smith will test the Bulldogs' coverage unit.
Player To Watch - Senior Punter Casey Couey: The four-year punter was named to the preseason All-Southern Conference first team. Couey averaged 43.0 yards on 40 punts last year, with a long of 66, almost mirroring his numbers this season. He also averaged 39.6 yards on 48 punts in 2009 and 39.1 yards on 40 attempts in 2010.
Key Matchup: The Citadel's offense has been efficient, and the Bulldogs are 5 of 7 on fourth down. The first goal is to get The Citadel to punt, and then to have the Wolfpack get loose in punt return unit.
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