Johnson to face Alma Mater
When fourteenth-ranked South Carolina hosts the Citadel Saturday afternoon, it will be the first time Assistant head coach Ellis Johnson faces his Alma Mater from the opposing sideline. Johnson, a 1975 graduate of the Citadel where he played defensive end for the Bulldogs, was also a defensive ends coach for the Citadel in 1976 before returning to run the program from 2001-2003.
"It's not that big of a deal," Johnson said of facing his Alma Mater. "I know Coach Higgins and certainly still support the Brigadier Club and all the other things I can do and pull for them 364 days out of the year, but it has nothing to do with what is going on Saturday."
On Saturday, Johnson will lead his defense against the triple option attack for the second time this season. In the home opener, the Gamecocks faced Navy's triple option attack and struggled most of the game before making two big stands on the final two Midshipman drives to preserve a 24-21 victory. Whereas the Carolina defense was going into the Navy game blind, they now have something to look back on when preparing the Citadel.
"It's easier now for the players because when they cut the film on now they've seen the exact same scheme," Johnson said.
The Bulldogs will look to run the ball all game long to keep the Gamecocks offense on the sidelines, much like Navy did. The Bulldogs have only attempted 73 passes on the season and starting quarterback Ben Dupree has nearly four times as many rushing attempts as passing attempts. Dupree has attempted just 45 passes, completing 22 of those pass for 192 yards and no touchdown passes. Dupree leads the team in rushes with 159 carries for 584 yards and eight touchdowns. Running back Darien Robinson leads the team in rushing yards 774 yards on 116 carries and also has eight touchdowns.
"Everybody talks about the triple option – it's an assignment deal," Johnson said. "It limits some of the schemes and blitzes you can do with teams that don't run it because you don't have to be as sound in all your gaps. It's the same thing with them as it was with Navy. They execute it just as well as Navy does so you have to be just as disciplined."
Johnson believes his team has had a great week of practice and will be ready to go against the Citadel offense despite having severe weather change up the schedule on Wednesday.
"I think we had a pretty good week," Johnson said. "Wednesday was not good – we got interrupted by the weather and had to switch practice and meetings around – but the players handled it well and it wasn't a distraction."
Johnson knows that even though the Citadel is a FCS team, they still have players that are capable of playing in the FBS and look forward to playing in these types of games, much like when he was the head coach.
"In the three years I was there I took teams to Georgia Tech, LSU, and Maryland," Johnson said. "It's always a big thrill for those guys – everybody wants to play on that (FBS) level and sometimes you don't get that opportunity. There are guys there now and some players on my team that could play for those teams, but the bulk of them could not."
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