|« YSU Staff Know What’s Expected - Wins||Lafayette's Blake Costanzo Gives Browns Coach Eric Mangini First Win »|
Calling all Cit' QBs: Caldwell makes switch
Transitioning receiver now heads up QB depth chart
At season’s end last November, The Citadel football team looked well-stocked at quarterback. In fact, the Bulldogs had the rare luxury of three quarterbacks who won Southern Conference weekly awards last season, and all three were eligible to return for the 2010 season.
What a difference three months makes.
Bart Blanchard, The Citadel’s record-holder for career touchdown passes, elected not to return for his fifth season. Walk-on Tommy Edwards, hero of the Samford victory, transferred to New Mexico State in search of scholarship money and playing time. And Miguel Starks, star of the win over rival Furman, is in jail and no longer a cadet.
Former receiver Luke Caldwell is now the No. 1 quarterback for The Citadel, which has lost four quarterbacks since November.
If that’s not enough, the Bulldogs lost another QB last week when fifth-year senior Cam Turner, who played receiver last season, decided to give up football after his surgically repaired shoulder proved too weak to throw the ball downfield.
That leaves The Citadel with another converted receiver, rising junior Luke Caldwell, as the starting quarterback in spring practice. The 6-1, 205-pound Caldwell has not played quarterback since high school in Wilmington, N.C.
“That was just a couple of snaps,” Caldwell said before practice Tuesday. “Nothing serious.”
Caldwell’s stint at quarterback this spring is definitely serious, as the Bulldogs make the switch to a triple-option offense that hinges on the QB’s ability to make the right read – hand off, keep the ball or pitch it – on play after play.
“It’s really different,” Caldwell said, “going from a position where you touch the ball maybe once or twice a game to touching it on every play.”
Citadel coaches began pondering their QB depth chart even before Starks, who had been the frontrunner to start next season, was jailed on Feb. 27 on multiple charges stemming from a home invasion (he was hit with more charges from a second case Tuesday). Caldwell, who caught 11 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown last season, was a top candidate due to his quick feet and surprisingly strong arm.
A couple of days before spring practice started on Feb. 27, wide receivers coach Ryan Hearn called Caldwell into his office.
“He played a prank like I was in trouble,” Caldwell said. “Then he hit me with, ‘You are moving to quarterback.’ I was like, ‘Whooo!’ But it’s exciting.”
Five practices into the spring, coach Kevin Higgins said Caldwell is making progress.
“He gives us an awful lot to work with,” Higgins said. “He’s got an incredible arm and is a pretty accurate passer for not having thrown much for two years. He’s athletic, has good feet and is picking up system. The challenge will be his ability to pay attention to detail and do all the little things. At this position, there is so much more at stake. Leadership is so important, and focusing on the minute details. If he can do those things, he has a chance to be a good solid player for us.”
Caldwell can feel the added responsibility.
“You are in the huddle, and everyone is looking at you,” he said. “Everyone is depending on you to make the right call and the right read. It’s definitely a lot more on your shoulders.”
Caldwell will not be the only option come fall practice. Higgins said The Citadel plans to bring in a transfer quarterback, though he cannot identify the player until he is admitted to school. And the Bulldogs signed three high school quarterbacks last month who will report in the fall – Burke High School standout Del’Javon Simmons, Ben Dupree and Matt Thompson.
“I’m expecting to compete for the starting job in the fall,” Caldwell said. “I’m going to work as hard as I can to secure that spot. I hope the freshmen come in and push me and make me a better player, and I’ll try to do the same for them.”
–One position up for grabs this spring is center, where the Bulldogs must replace Thomas Suggs. Nate Gerber (6-3, 260), Bobby Jarvis (6-2, 242) and freshman Jim Knowles (6-0, 305) are getting looks there … WR Kevin Hardy, the SoCon long jump champ in track, is still not ready for spring football after straining his hip flexor.
By Jeff Hartsell, The Post and Courier