Back Game Preview: Citadel vs Mercer

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Game Preview: Citadel vs Mercer

By Manning Snyder
SouthernPigskin.com
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Manning Snyder previews Saturday's game between The Citadel and Mercer.

Overview
The Citadel football team returns to the gridiron on Saturday afternoon as they travel to Macon, Georgia, to face the Mercer Bears. This is The Citadel’s first game of their spring SoCon slate. Mercer lost to Wofford 31-14 last weekend. The Citadel (0-4) lost all four of their fall games--against South Florida, Clemson, Eastern Kentucky, and Army. Mercer (0-4) played three games in the fall, dropping every contest. The Citadel returns some veterans on both sides of the ball, including wide receiver Raleigh Webb and reigning SoCon Defensive Player of the Year, Willie Eubanks III. But they will have a new quarterback, redshirt-sophomore Jaylan Adams (5-10”, 165-pounds) out of Johnson City, Tennessee. This will be the first start for the speedy Adams, who was backup to now-departed quarterback Brandon Rainey. The Bulldogs will be starting a handful of new players on both the offensive and defensive sides. Even though the spring season feels new (140 days since their last game), The Citadel still technically carries over their 0-4 record from the fall. It will very much be a different team for the Bulldogs, though. Mercer was tied with VMI as the 6th-ranked team in the SoCon Preseason Coaches Poll (out of 9 overall teams). Mercer also didn’t have any players voted into the Preseason First and Second Teams; The Citadel had 6. The Citadel head coach Brent Thompson has dominated Mercer in his tenure, holding a 3-1 career record over the Bears.

Why To Watch
Despite both teams’ record, there are still reasons to watch Saturday’s game. It will be a fresh slate for The Citadel, a chance to see how Adams commands the offense. Mercer running back Deondre Johnson will look to improve on his impressive stats, rushing for 111 yards and a touchdown in four games. The Citadel’s Eubanks III is a force to be reckoned with on defense--expect to see a plethora of solo tackles and some big plays from him. The game is an opportunity for both teams to get back on track and finally get in the win column.

The Citadel Players to Watch
QB Jaylan Adams
Although Adams received a good bit of playing time in the fall in blowout contests, Saturday’s game will be monumental for him. Rainey was the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs ever since the tail end of the 2018 season. Saturday will be a changing of the guard, if you will. Adams is fast and agile. It will be tough for defenses to take him down once he gets to the outside. Adams’ throwing ability is still somewhat of an unknown to fans and opposing coaches--if he is able to be a competent passing threat, the Bulldogs will be tough to stop offensively.

CB Javonte Middleton
In the fall, when the 6-0”, 180-pound cornerback got his first career start against Clemson, he forced a turnover. The Savannah, Georgia, native will get his second career start on Saturday. An interesting note: per The Citadel website’s game notes, the NCAA introduced #0 as a number in the fall. Moving forward for the Bulldogs, the Military Captain of the team will wear #0 for the entire year. Middleton is the first Bulldog to earn that honor.


Mercer Players To Watch
LB Isaac Dowling
One of the leaders of the Mercer defense, the 210-pound middle linebacker is only a freshman. He leads the team with 40 tackles, 4 sacks, and a forced fumble. The Lawrenceville, Georgia, native didn’t play in last weekend’s game against Wofford. Look to him to bring much needed energy for the Bears.

QB Carter Peevy
Another freshman, quarterback Carter Peevy, is the other Mercer “Player to Watch.” The 6-3’, 209-pound quarterback threw for 131 yards against Wofford last weekend. He was 11-for-24 throwing with a long pass of 30-yards. Mercer quarterback Harrison Frost, a redshirt junior, was projected as being the starter for the Bears this spring season, but perhaps Coach Drew Cronic is looking to develop his freshman during their SoCon slate (another theory: Frost could be injured). Nonetheless, whomever starts, either Peevy or Frost, they will need to have a productive game for Mercer to prevail.

Keys To Game
In order for Mercer to win, they must improve defensively. In their four games, they have allowed an average of 33.5 points per game. The same can be said for The Citadel, too. The Bulldogs have given up an average of 24.75 points per game, yet against much more formidable opponents. Like every Citadel game, if they can dominate time-of-possession and reduce their turnovers, they will have a great chance of winning with their triple-option style offense.

Manning’s Fun Fact
Saturday’s matchup will be the first spring football game for The Citadel in their programs’ history.

Conclusion
A fresh start for The ‘Dogs. A chance to right the ship for Mercer. The game might be a little sloppy at first for the Bulldogs given the extended layoff, but expect them to win this contest and return to Charleston 1-0 in the SoCon. And, besides, regardless of who wins, it’s football in the spring? Which...has never happened in my lifetime. What else can you ask for?

Manning Snyder - A Charleston, South Carolina-native, Manning Snyder covers The Citadel and Southern Conference football.