Defensive linemen across the country trembled when The Citadel came into town during the 2016 college football season.
The Bulldogs led the nation in rushing, averaging 348.2 yards per game. They ran the ball more times per contest than any other team in the FCS, knowing full well that keeping the ball on the ground was the squad’s best bet for success offensively.
As an option team, that’s exactly what first-year head coach Brent Thompson wanted. However, putting up those numbers again will be much tougher in 2017.
2016 The Citadel Football Season In Review
This program ran through, over and around the opposition almost at will last year. Two quarterbacks each tallied at least 650 yards on the ground; as a whole, the Bulldogs averaged 5.4 yards per rush.
Tyler Renew saw the bulk of the work, carrying the ball for 1,096 yards. Oddly enough, he was one of the team’s primary pass-catching options, too, finishing second in receiving with 120 yards and two touchdowns.
Dominique Allen was the primary quarterback for the Bulldogs, but Thompson rotated his signal callers often due to the hits they take in this scheme. Allen wasn’t a great passer, but he wasn’t expected to do the majority of the damage through the air. He completed just 39.3 percent of his throws and tossed two more interceptions than touchdowns.
Overall, the defense did its part for much of the year. The Citadel was 14th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 20.5 points per game. Only two squads scored more than 24 points on the Bulldogs all season long: FBS foe North Carolina and Mercer.
The Citadel had a dream start to its 2016 campaign, going 10-0 and locking up the conference crown before falling to FBS foe North Carolina in its last game of the regular season. Even with the loss, the school was ranked No. 6 and given a first-round bye heading into its playoff contest against division rival Wofford. The Bulldogs had defeated the Terriers in a close game on the road in the regular season and were expected to win in the playoffs, but Wofford had other ideas.
Both teams employ an option offense, so the Terriers knew exactly how to shut down The Citadel’s attack. Wofford forced the Bulldogs to throw the ball and held them to their lowest point total of the year in a 17-3 win.
It was a tough way to close what had been an almost magical year for The Citadel.
2017 The Citadel Football Season Preview
There are some huge question marks about The Citadel heading into the 2017 campaign. Only three offensive starters return, so it will be extremely difficult to have the same success running the football as it did last year.
Allen and last year’s second-leading rusher, Cam Jackson, both return. That helps, but only somewhat considering the massive losses along the offensive line. All-American offensive tackle Isaiah Pinson decided to forgo his senior season, while three other starters graduated. Having only one of those road graters up front is going to hurt significantly.
The defense is going to be in some trouble, too. Dee Delaney was a two-time All-American cornerback who left to compete at the FBS level at Miami (FL). He is a potential NFL prospect and will be sorely missed. Additionally, two defensive linemen who started in 2016 elected not to return to the team, which might underscore a bigger problem within the program.
Kailik Williams was the Southern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year last season and is one of the few starters returning. He is a hard-hitting safety that will play a big part in stopping the run.
2017 The Citadel Football Schedule
September 2: The Citadel vs. Newberry
September 9: The Citadel vs. Presbyterian
September 16: The Citadel at East Tennessee State
September 30: The Citadel at Samford
October 7: The Citadel vs. Mercer
October 14: The Citadel vs. Wofford
October 21: The Citadel at Chattanooga
October 28: The Citadel vs. VMI
November 4: The Citadel vs. Western Carolina
November 11: The Citadel at Furman
November 18: The Citadel at Clemson
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
The Bulldogs were a little fortunate to do as well as they did during the 2016 regular season. The team went 6-0 in one-possession games, with five of those coming in conference play. Will the squad have the same good fortune two years in a row?
The Citadel faces its two toughest conference opponents in back-to-back weeks this fall. In mid-October, the Bulldogs will host Wofford before traveling to face Chattanooga the following week. Those two offenses couldn’t be more different, which will be tough for the defense to adjust. Add in the road element and Chattanooga is a great selection in FCS Pick ‘Em Contests when it hosts The Citadel.