BOILING SPRINGS - Newcomer Kenny Cook caught five passes for
131 yards and two touchdowns, and defensive end Shaquille Riddick led an
aggressive defensive effort during Gardner-Webb's Spring Game Saturday at
The Runnin' Bulldogs had only three penalties whistled
during Saturday's action and showed plenty of energy and focus from start to
"I was pleased with how today went," said head Coach Ron
Dickerson, Jr. "These guys have a year with me under their belts now and know
what we expect out of them, and I think we saw more of what we are looking for
today and this spring. There were times that both sides of the ball looked
really good. Offensively we showed some life and our defensive guys kept
plugging and got some stops too. As a team I feel like we made very good
progress. Now we can work on getting healthy and getting bigger and stronger
the rest of the year."
Cook (6-4, 210, RSo.), who transferred to Gardner-Webb from
Garden City (Kan.) Community College in January, hauled in a 73-yard pass from
Jordan Paul early in the scrimmage, and caught touchdown passes of 24 yards
from Paul and 11 yards from Exavier Johnson.
The Clinton, S.C., native was an All-Conference selection in
his lone season at Garden City, and will have three seasons to play for the
Runnin' Bulldogs. Cook was an All-State selection at Clinton (S.C.) High, and
earned SCADA North/South All-Star Game spots in both football and basketball as
a prep senior.
Riddick (6-7, 230, So.) has been a topic of notable
excitement around the program this spring, beginning to mold his considerable
potential into tangible results on the field. The Akron, Ohio, native led the
team with nine tackles, a disruptive five tackles for loss, two sacks and a
forced fumble Saturday.
All-Big South kicker Trever Austin (5-10, 190, So.)
showcased his usual leg strength and accuracy, connecting on all four of his
PAT attempts and going 3-for-3 on field goals with makes of 33, 35 and 52
Gardner-Webb used four quarterbacks Saturday, with Paul
(6-3, 180, So.), Chandler Browning (6-3, 225, RJr.) and Exavier Johnson (6-3,
200, Sr.) seeing much of the action. Paul, a dual-threat quarterback from
Brooklyn, N.Y., started the day with the first unit, and finished 5-of-10 for
123 yards, one touchdown and an interception on a long throw downfield.
Browning finished the day 6-of-9 for 144 yards, including a
95-yard scoring pass to Ricky Rhodes. Browning also ran for a touchdown on a
Johnson completed three of his passes on the afternoon,
hitting Cook on an 11-yard score to close out his day. Nat Dunlap (6-2, 175,
RFr.) also saw action under center, completing 2-of-3 passes for 37 yards.
The Runnin' Bulldogs gave All-Big South running back Kenny
Little (5-11, 220, RSr.) the ball nine times, and the Flanders, N.J., native
responded by barreling and sprinting his way to 64 yards. J.J. Hubbard carried
14 times for 42 yards and a three-yard touchdown during the short yardage
portion of the scrimmage.
In addition to Cook's big day receiving, Gardner-Webb had
nine different receivers haul in at least one pass. Carlton Heard (5-11, 175,
RFr.) caught four passes for 39 yards, Stanley Fleurant (6-3, 185, RFr.) caught
one pass for 26 yards and Rhodes had his 95-yard catch and sprint to the end
zone. Five other players, including tight ends Hudson Smith (1 catch, 9 yards)
and Albert Doyle (1 catch, 7 yards) had one catch in the scrimmage.
Riddick had the day's most impressive numbers on defense,
but was far from that unit's only bright spot. Linebacker Brian Wittenberger (6-2, 225, RJr.) had seven
tackles and a tackle for loss after an injury sidelined him for 2011. Running
mates Bradley Taylor (6-1, 225, So.) and Tanner Burch (6-3, 230, So.) also had
strong afternoons, with Taylor collecting six hits and three tackles for loss
and Burch making five stops and returning a fumble 50 yards during red zone
Defensive lineman Maurice Dickson had five hits, a pair of
tackles for loss and a sack up front. Cornerbacks Ivan Toomer (6-1, 185, So.)
and Keon Williams (6-0, 175, Jr.) were solid as well, breaking up two passes
each. Safety Gianni Olivas (5-10, 190, Jr.) had three hits, broke up a pass and
picked off the defense's lone interception of the day.
All told, the Gardner-Webb defense recorded 12 tackles for
loss and four sacks in the game. A dozen players collected at least three
Gardner-Webb will wrap up spring practice with a
pair of sessions early next week. The Runnin' Bulldogs open the 2012 regular
season on Saturday, September 1, at home vs. Wofford (6:00 pm kickoff).