With The Citadel heading on the road for its season opener against Mercer, redshirt freshman starting quarterback Jordan Black recognizes the gravity of the situation in front of him. Taking over for Dominique Allen, Black will play a conference game to kick off the season for the Bulldogs, a rarity for the Southern Conference.
“It’s definitely a big game opening up with a big game and a tough opponent with Mercer on a Thursday night with the lights on and everything,” Black said. “But I am really excited to get out there and get the pregame jitters out and go and play football. That’s what we’ve been preparing for, for so long, so I’m just ready to get out and play.”
Though Black will have a stout rushing attack to rely upon, he’s still taking on his new experience with some trepidation, as any new first-stringer would.
“There is a little bit of nervousness, but that is always before preseason,” he said. “We are just focusing on getting ready for this game and getting the game plan through, so coaches are putting me through this process and I feel pretty comfortable now, especially with the leadership from the older guys.”
During The Citadel’s largely successful 2015 season, Dominique Allen led from the quarterback position, but he is injured at the start of the 2016 campaign. Despite this fact, Allen has lent his expertise to Black as a curator for the Bulldogs’ offense.
“Ever since I got here as a true freshman, Dom has always been there for me, helping me out, giving me pointers and suggestions, so really nothing has changed,” Black said. “He’s been out there at practice every day, and if he sees something he will pull me off to the side and we will talk about it like we always have. Nothing has really changed between us.”
That stability matters, as Black explained:
“It definitely helps the transition a lot because these older guys have been here and they’ve done that, so going through practice they will give me some pointers of how they’ve been through the system and what happens here and what happens there and they help me get through that.”
At The Citadel, head coach Brent Thompson feels he has prepared his starter as best he can before the opener. Thompson detailed the rigors he put Black through leading up to the Mercer game.
“On the offensive side, we’ve had to put Jordan underneath a little bit of pressure,” Thompson said. “We’ve had to make him make some checks. We’ve had to put him in live situations, so he’s gotten a lot of the reps, a lot of the looks, but he’s done a great job of it. So preparation-wise, it’s probably more along the lines of what we had to do with Dominique last year being that he was a first time starter and we had to put him in a lot of tough situations. But like I’ve been telling our kids, we still have good football players around him.”
Thompson has good reason to express confidence in Black’s abilities. Not only did he watch him during his true freshman year, but Black has undergone a rigorous camp in preparation for his elevated role this season.
“Towards the end of camp he’s probably taken close to 1,000 reps at this point, so I think he’s settled down in that role,” Thompson explained. “He’s seen it all, and then we will probably have to get him through it for the first couple reps. But just like me being the first time head coach, once that ball is kicked and he gets the first couple snaps underneath him, he’ll be just fine and it’ll just take over for him.”
Given the keys to the Bulldogs’ offense for the start of 2016, Black hopes his dual-threat skills will emerge enough for The Citadel to keep Mercer’s defense off balance. All that’s left is to plunge into the moment and deal with nerves … much as thousands of other young men will do on Thursday night, in Week 1, and throughout this college football season, in the FCS and FBS alike.