Football Camp Notebook: Runnin' Bulldogs Put On Full Pads Wednesday - GWUSports.com—Official Web Site of Gardner-Webb Athletics
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Steve Demilio (left) and Jeff Harris (right) clear a path near the end of Wednesday's practice.
Courtesy: Marc Rabb
Football Camp Notebook: Runnin' Bulldogs Put On Full Pads Wednesday
Courtesy: Gardner-Webb
          Release: August 10, 2011
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BOILING SPRINGS - Gardner-Webb put on full pads for the first time Wednesday morning, as the Runnin' Bulldogs hit the practice fields for the fifth time of preseason camp.

Coach Ron Dickerson, Jr., and staff worked the squad through its usual routine, with several full contact drills mixed in. The fast tempo of practice continued, despite the added equipment, with solid results.

The team's offseason work in the weight room appears to have paid off, with the Runnin' Bulldogs appearing bigger, stronger and in better overall physical condition so far in the August heat.

DEFENSIVE NOTES

The new wave of talent brought in by the new staff has been most evident in the secondary, with several new faces looking to make an early impact. One of the most noticeable standouts so far has been cornerback Ivan Toomer (6-0, 180, Fr.), who signed with the 'Dogs this summer after a strong career at Homestead (Fla.) High in football-famous Dade County. The physical cover man has outstanding speed (4.37 40-yard dash), and was the first leg on Homestead's 4x100m relay team that finished fourth in the state this past spring.

Safeties Brian Covington (6-1, 185, Fr.) and Donald Buie III (6-0, 185, Fr.) are other newcomers who have worked themselves into contention for playing time in 2011, along with junior college transfer Kamar Morrison (5-11, 175, Jr.) at cornerback.

Newcomer Bradley Taylor (6-1, 225, Fr.) has shown improvement since spring practice at linebacker, and will be a welcome addition to a unit that must replace graduates and long-time starters Jeffery Williams and Oluwadamilola Teniola. Taylor enrolled at GWU in January, 2011, after a postgraduate season at Oak Ridge (N.C.) Military Academy.

OFFENSIVE NOTES

The coaching staff's decision to move speedster Ricky Rhodes (5-7, 175, Jr.) to the offensive side of the ball when spring practice started in 2011 appears to be a wise one. Rhodes was very effective during the spring game, and has continued to shine during fall camp. Still one of the team's quickest, most elusive players, Rhodes will be a major weapon for the 'Dogs after sitting out last season.

Veteran receivers James Perry III (6-0, 182, RSr.), Marquis Sanders (5-11, 180, RSr.) and Lyndon Leslie (6-2, 210, RSr.) add a heavy dose of experience to the Gardner-Webb offense, and each has been strong during fall camp. Sanders could be one of the more underrated players in the Big South Conference, with sprinter's speed (10.7 in the 100m dash) and improved strength. Sanders was en route to an All-Conference season in 2010 - averaging 4.7 receptions per game through the first three games - before going down for the rest of the season early in the Sam Houston State game.

The tandem of Luke Stein (6-2, 255, Sr.) at fullback and Kenny Little (5-11, 205, Jr.) at running back adds a formidable new dimension to the Gardner-Webb offense. The Runnin' Bulldogs have not played with a true fullback on the roster since the 1999 season, when Charles Palmer (5-10, 255) blocked for Justin Richardson (5-10, 245) in a 500-pound backfield. Little - the team's most complete back heading into 2010 - missed the final 10 games after an injury on the second series of the season opener. The second-rated running back in New Jersey as a prep senior, Little returned during spring practice at full strength.

SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES

Freshman kicker Trever Austin (5-10, 190) has drawn solid early reviews, particularly on kickoffs. The strong-legged rookie regularly booms kickoffs deep into the end zone and could provide the 'Dogs with a weapon in that area it has not enjoyed in years past.


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