Gardner-Webb will open the season with Brevard College for the second season in a row. Saturday’s game will air live on WGWG-FM (88.3) and will be carried on the Big South Network video streaming service (bigsouthsports.com).
Gardner-Webb jumped out to an early lead last season in the two teams’ first senior college meeting and posted a 28-14 win in Spangler Stadium. Freshman Juanne Blount topped the 100-yard mark in his first game, and scored a touchdowns to pace the Runnin’ Bulldogs offensively. Linebacker Jeffery Williams made 18 tackles and was named FCS National Defensive Player of the Week by the Sports Network the following Monday.
Gardner-Webb head coach Ron Dickerson, Jr., is in his first season in charge of the Runnin’ Bulldogs. GWU is also his first head coaching job overall. Brevard head coach Paul Hamilton is in his fifth season as the Tornado’s boss and has spent 12 seasons in the college coaching ranks as a head coach, which also includes stops at ETSU and Elon. Hamilton is 59-86 in his 12 seasons as a college head coach.
AGAINST LOWER DIVISIONS IN SPANGLER STADIUM
In the past 10 seasons, Gardner-Webb has gone a perfect 10-0 against non-Division I teams at home. GWU opened 2009 with a lopsided win over Mars Hill, and topped Brevard 28-14 last season.
A NEW MAN ON THE SIDELINES
Gardner-Webb will have a new skipper on its sideline for the first time since 1997, as Ron Dickerson, Jr., coaches his first game for the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Dickerson is the eighth head coach in the program’s senior college history, and only the third since 1984. The past three Gardner-Webb head coaches have won their first game on the sidelines with the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
Gardner-Webb will open its season at home for the third season in a row, but for just the third time since 2005 ... GWU is 5-0 when opening its season on the home turf since the 2000 season.
IT WILL BE A WHILE BEFORE WE SEE YOU HERE AGAIN ...
Gardner-Webb won’t return to Spangler Stadium for four weeks, when it opens Big South Conference play on October 8 vs. Liberty. GWU plays at Ohio (Sept. 10) and at Wake Forest (Sept. 17) before an open date on September 24. The ‘Dogs then trek to Birmingham, Ala., for the first time since 2000 to play Samford on October 1.
BROWNING GUNNING FOR BREAKOUT YEAR
Quarterback Chandler Browning (6-3, 225, So.) will start the 2011 season for the ‘Dogs under center, earning that nod with an exceptional showing during fall camp. A focused effort in the offseason paid major dividends, with Browning sharp in all areas. The Raleigh, N.C., native started four games last season, passing for 863 yards and four touchdowns. His best game a year ago came in the overtime win at Akron, when he tossed a pair of touchdowns and threw for 198 yards.
IS THAT A FULLBACK?
Several players shifted positions, and fit into new roles well during spring practice and fall camp, and one particulary exciting move came with Luke Stein (6-2, 255, Sr.) and his move to fullback. GWU will use a true fullback at times this season, which will mark the first time since 1999 that the offense has utilized the position regularly – going to more of a pro style attack in 2011 than the spread offense. Stein was an All-State player at Ft. Thomas (Ky.) Highlands and spent time as a blocking tight end that lined up in the backfield at Gardner-Webb as a freshman in 2008. He played as a reserve defensive tackle over the past two seasons, but has adjusted well to his new role with the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
Receiver James Perry III (6-0, 182, Sr.), today’s cover boy, is poised for an assault on Gardner-Webb and Big South record books in his final season with the Runnin’ Bulldogs. The Greensboro, N.C., native has 181 career catches to his credit, which leaves him 21 shy of the league mark held by Maurice Price (Charleston Southern) and 52 shy of the Gardner-Webb record held by William Andrews, Jr. Perry needs just seven catches to tie Duvaughn Flagler and Rodney Robinson for second all-time in Gardner-Webb history – and has a chance to become the first player in school or league history to catch at least 50 passes in four consecutive seasons.
TWO ON THREE
Gardner-Webb will make a pair of appearances on ESPN3.com, the worldwide leader’s broadband internet video service, this season. GWU’s game at Wake Forest will air on the network (6:30 pm kickoff) and the October 8 home game with Liberty will also be carried by ESPN3.com (4:00 pm kickoff).
A PRESEASON TRADITION
Gardner-Webb placed four men on preseason FCS All-America squads during the summer months, adding to a long tradition of preseason honors for Runnin’ Bulldogs players. Receiver James Perry III and guard Jamie Dunaway each earned honorable mention honors from Consensus Draft services. Linebacker Marty Patterson was a fourth-team selection by Phil Steele and a third-team selection by College Sporting News. Long snapper Hudson Smith was also a third-team selection by College Sporting News (CSN). Patterson was a preseason All-America choice for the second season in a row. Since 2003, Gardner-Webb has seen 18 players earn preseason All-America honors – with at least one on a preseason team in each of the past eight seasons.
BIG FRONT LINE
Gardner-Webb’s offensive line has drawn solid reviews during preseason camp, coming together nicely as a unit under new position coach Dwayne Ledford. The starting five: left tackle Harrison Martin (6-6, 285, RJr.); left guard Jamie Dunaway (6-4, 290, Jr.); center Austin Sargent (6-3, 290, Jr.); right guard Jeff Harris (6-2, 291, RSo.) and right tackle Steve Demilio (6-5, 290, RJr.) average a solid 6-foot-4, 289-pounds per man and have at least three years each in a college weight program under their belts.
LAST YEAR’S OPENER
Gardner-Webb jumped out to a 21-0 lead last September 4 in its opener with Brevard, getting a short touchdown run from Kenny Little, a sneak by John Rock and a seven-yard touchdown pass from Rock to Jamal Patmon to go take control of the game. Brevard used a turnover to cut the lead to 21-7 and – after Juanne Blount scored to make it 28-7 – the Tornados drove 68 yards to score for the 28-14 final margin with just under three minutes to play. Blount finished with a game-high 134 yards on 18 carries and Little carried five times for 45 yards before leaving on the second series with an injury. Current starting quarterback Chandler Browning was an efficient 8-of-10 passing for 39 yards.
Gardner-Webb’s current coaching staff has a combined 143 years of coaching experience among them, with much of that coming on the college level. Current GWU coaches have held full-time positions at BCS conference schools Pittsburgh, Colorado, Penn State, Clemson, Georgia, West Virginia, Wake Forest and Ole Miss – with two climbing as high as coordinator at that level. Defensive line coach Ron Dickerson, Sr., was an FBS-level head coach in the mid-1990s at Temple.
REBUILDING THE HOME FIELD EDGE
Gardner-Webb has long been tough to beat on its home field, boasting a 15-game win streak that spanned 2001-2003, but the Runnin’ Bulldogs hit a rough patch during the 2010 campaign at Norman Harris Field at Ernest W. Spangler Stadium. GWU went 2-3 on its home turf last season, beating Brevard and VMI and losing to Western Carolina, Presbyterian and Coastal Carolina. The ‘Dogs had gone 9-3 in their previous 12 home games, with two of the three losses coming to nationally-ranked foes.
FOUR TIMES ON THE TUBE IN 2K11
Gardner-Webb will play on live television or on major network broadband four times in 2011 – with five other games airing on the Big South Network (bigsouthsports.com). The Runnin’ Bulldogs will play on ESPN3.com against Wake Forest (9/17) and Liberty (10/8); will take on Presbyterian (10/15) on WMYA-40 (Greenville, S.C.) and Coastal Carolina (10/22) on MASN. Games against Brevard, Charleston Southern, Virginia State, Stony Brook and VMI will air on the Big South Network.
MOVING AND SHAKING
Gardner-Webb made several position moves that could prove to be very helpful over the course of the 2011 season. Tyler Hough-Jenkins (6-4, 270, RFr.) has moved from offense to the defensive line, and excelled during fall camp – pushing his way onto the two-deep with a strong performance. Speedster Ricky Rhodes (5-7, 175, RJr.) could emerge as one of the league’s most dangerous all-purpose threats, having moved to offense full-time in the spring. The Richmond, Ky., native is a slippery, versatile performer who will also field kickoffs and punts. Highly-touted quarterback Jordan Paul (6-3, 180, Fr.) took snaps under center and at receiver during camp, and is another dangerous all-around threat. With Jeff Harris’ emergence at offensive guard, and the addition of some young talent at the position, veteran Maurice Bryan (6-2, 265, RJr.) was allowed to move back to the defensive line, where he will be a tremendous help in the trenches for the ‘Dogs.
TWO FROM THE BOWL SUBDIVISION IN ‘11
For the third time in five seasons, Gardner-Webb will do battle at a pair of bowl subdivision teams in the same season. Just like 2009, the ‘Dogs will take on a team from the MAC and the ACC. Instead of NC State and Buffalo, GWU will travel to face Ohio and Wake Forest. The Runnin’ Bulldogs will do something this year, however, it has never done before – play its two FBS games in back-to-back weeks.
THIS WEEK IN THE BIG SOUTH CONFERENCE
In other Big South Conference action this week: Presbyterian hosts No. 8 Wofford (1:30 pm); VMI hosts Delaware State (1:30 pm), Coastal Carolina hosts Furman (6:00 pm); No. 18 Liberty travels to NC State (6:00 pm); Charleston Southern hits the road to play UCF (7:00 pm) and Stony Brooks heads to the Rio Grande to battle UTEP (9:00 pm).
FRESHMEN OF THE YEAR UNITE
Gardner-Webb’s defensive front four will feature the last two Big South Conference Freshman of the Year selections – tackle Matt Goods (6-2, 275, RSo.) and end Preston Pemasa (6-2, 250, So.). The duo teams with three-year starter Jordan Woods (6-3, 245, Sr.) and veteran Dylan Taylor (6-0, 265, RJr.) to pose a formidable threat up front
ON THE AIR
Gardner-Webb’s football games this season can be heard live on WGWG-FM (88.3), the school’s 50,000-watt flagship station. Fabian Fuentes and David Allen will provide the call for the Runnin’ Bulldogs in 2011. Log onto to wgwg.org for a live audio stream via the internet as well.
BIG SOUTH NETWORK
The Big South Network, presented by State Farm, will carry all of Gardner-Webb’s home football games and all Big South Conference games live as part of the league’s subscription-based video streaming package. Interested parties may register for an account at bigsouthsports.com. Replays, highlight packages and other features are part of what is planned for the 2011 season. †