With the calendar shifting to October, the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs will be the Charlotte 49ers’ week 6 opponent, as the Green and White will return home after a trip to Presbyterian and a battle with the Blue Hose down in South Carolina.
G-W welcomes back Carroll McCray, a graduate of the university in 1983, as he returns to take the reins from former NFL player Rob Dickerson Jr., who resigned after two seasons in January. He’ll need to shore up a defense that gave up 39.5 points a game last season as well as boost an offense that was held to 20.5 an outing.
Under center was where the Bulldogs struggled a little. Lucas Beatty threw for 12 touchdowns and almost 2,500 yards but was picked off 13 times. With a year under his belt, he’ll need to improve on that this season. Top targets Kenny Cook and Deonte Swinton return at wideout, but leading rusher Kenny Little has been lost to graduation. That should allow Juanne Blount to slide in and take the reins. The offensive line suffered last season, allowing 33 sacks.
On the other side of the ball, leading tackler Tanner Burch (113) returns for his junior season, and with him will be Maurice Dickson (5.5 sacks) and Shaquille Riddick (10 QB hurries). G-W has shown somewhat of an ability to get to the quarterback at times, but not on a regular basis; they only racked up 20 sacks last year. While their passing defense is decent (244.8 ypg allowed through the air), up front is where they are hurting–giving up 2355 yards and 26 rushing touchdowns on the ground in 2012.
G-W has the pieces to be successful this year. Stopping the run and getting to the quarterback consistently are their main issues, and they’ll need a little more out of the man under center. If that happens, the Bulldogs could be a threat in the Big South.