Quarterback Jeff Klein is already familiar with Tiger Stadium, especially its playing surface.
It was only ten months ago that he was playing for Auburn and saw brief relief action in a 27-14 loss to LSU. Both of his pass attempts fell to the turf incomplete and Klein himself went down for a sack in the game that decided who would represent the Western Division in the Southeastern Conference Championship game.
It was the only playing time Klein saw all year.
He didn't take any snaps in Auburn's 34-17 win over LSU in 2000 and saw mop-up duty (2-for-3 for 36 yards) behind Ben Leard in 1999 when the Plainsmen came to Tiger Stadium and claimed a 41-7 win.
At least from a standpoint of opportunity, Klein should have a better outing against the Tigers when he makes his next trip to Baton Rouge this weekend. He will be the starting quarterback for The Citadel when the Bulldogs open the 2002 season against LSU in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
Bulldogs coach Ellis Johnson made it official when he picked Klein over fifth-year senior Joe Call, who played even less than Klein in 2001 as a backup. Call finished the year 5-for-8 for 81 yards.
"Jeff has gotten a little better each scrimmage," said Johnson. "He's making some throws on certain routes that the other guys are not able to make. In our last scrimmage, he was very consistent in every aspect. There was just one signal from the sideline that he missed, but he is really starting to get a grasp of our offense."
Klein completed 10-of-19 passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns in the scrimmage. He made the transfer to The Citadel after seeing his playing time diminish over his first three years at Auburn, where made four starts as a freshman in 1999 and played in the Tigers' appearance in the 2000 SEC Championship game against Florida.
A knee injury Klein suffered as a sophomore led to him languishing behind Jason Campbell and Daniel Cobb in 2001.
The Citadel presented a much more favorable situation for Klein since the Bulldogs' starter last season, Mazzie Drummond, transferred to Pikeville College because of eligibility concerns. Although Johnson feels Call is a better quarterback than Drummond, he wholeheartedly supports Klein as the starter.
"It's a great situation compared with what we've been through," Johnson said. "Joe Call is a better quarterback now than what we played with last year. We've got a good situation with two experienced guys. We're not afraid at all to put Joe in there, and in fact we'll try to get him some time early in the year."
Scrimmage brings defensive changes: The same scrimmage that saw Klein emerge as the starting quarterback also produced some new contributors for the Citadel defense. Junior Larry Schreiber earned a starting spot at defensive end, allowing Johnson to move last year's starter, sophomore Rudy Griffin, to nose tackle.
"I've got to give Larry a lot of praise," Johnson said. "He's had a very good preseason and really took a leadership role in some things off the field. We're proud of his progress, but he's never been under the gun in a game situation. It's in his hands now, and we'll see how it goes."
The real story, however, is at the other defensive end position where basketball player Cliff Washburn has made a strong impression on the gridiron. At 6-foot-7, 270 pounds, he will be playing his first competitive football game since the sixth grade when he faces LSU.
"If Cliff is going to reach the level he wants to try to play, he has to turn it up a notch," Johnson said. "The frustration, the lack of knowledge of the game, the pads, he has to overcome all that. He's playing a game now where the object is not how much contact you can get away with, but how much contact you can dish out. He's got to learn to play at that level of intensity before it will come around for him."
"It's a lot tougher on your body than basketball," said Washburn, who helped lead the Bulldogs' basketball team to its first back-to-back winning seasons in more than 20 years before coming out for football last spring. "It's just the pounding. You can be just as sore in basketball two-a-days, but it's a lot of pounding out here. It's tough, but I know I've got to keep working and keep practicing."
The biggest vacancy from last year's defense came from the departure of Division I-AA All-American middle linebacker Travis Stephens. In his place will be sophomore James Greene.
Junior Travis Hodge is considered a co-starter at both of the outside linebacker spots and as Greene's backup in the middle in the Bulldogs' 3-5 scheme. The package features three down linemen, three linebackers, three safeties and two corners. The linebackers play a big role in the numerous blitzes featured in the defense.
"Travis Hodge has been the most consistent…and he's the swingman because he picks things up real quickly," said Johnson. "That's very critical for us because none of our young guys are ready to play in prime time there."
Other moves on the defensive depth chart include last year's starting free safety, pre-season All-Southern Conference choice Kevin Corley, being demoted to No. 2 behind junior Marcus Carter.
"He has not been the Corley of old," Johnson said. "He did not pass the conditioning test and got behind in that area and is just not playing consistently right now."
Should Corley reassert himself, Johnson says Carter could be moved to cornerback.
The star of The Citadel's most recent scrimmage was sophomore fullback Nehemiah Broughton, who had four touchdowns – two rushing and two receiving.
Wet but ready: After The Citadel completed its two-a-days, the Bulldogs encountered conditions similar to what LSU has faced this week. Rain forced the Bulldogs indoors for a number of the workouts, which Johnson says has made it difficult to mimic the pace of a game.
LSU spent Wednesday's practice outside despite heavy rains and winds. The forecast for Saturday in Baton Rouge calls for a 70 percent chance thundershowers.