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Big South Opponent Previews: Gardner-Webb
As Liberty's 2011 football training camp hits the midway point of its second week, LibertyFlames.com continues its Big South opponent previews.
During today's Big South opponent preview, LibertyFlames.com takes a look at Gardner-Webb, who the Flames will open up league play against on Oct. 8 in Boiling Springs, N.C.
During the month of August, LibertyFlames.com will release a brief look at each of Liberty's six Big South foes. The half-dozen opponents stand between the Flames and an unprecedented fifth-straight Big South Conference title.
Each preview will include a short write up about Liberty's conference opponents, opponent quick facts, plus links to recent match-ups with each opponent. In addition, each preview will include an audio clip from the Flames Sports Network, which will feature an interview with the opposing head coach and a key returning player, plus head coach Danny Rocco's thoughts on the upcoming match-up.
Today, LibertyFlames.com continues the series by looking at the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs, a team that was predicted to finish fourth in this year's annual Big South preseason poll, alongside Charleston Southern.
2011 Big South Preseason Football:
1. Liberty (15) – 123
2. Stony Brook (2) – 104
3. Coastal Carolina (1) – 96
4. Charleston Southern – 59
4. Gardner-Webb – 59 (nine fourth-place votes, six fifth-place votes, two sixth-place votes, one seventh-place vote)
6. VMI – 42 - VMI Preview
7. Presbyterian College – 21 - PC Preview
The Runnin' Bulldogs will be heading in a new direction in 2011, following 2010 where they finished tied for fourth with a 2-4 Big South record and a 4-7 mark overall.
During the offseason, Gardner-Webb replaced long-time head coach Steve Patton, who had guided the Runnin' Bulldogs for 14 seasons (1997-2010). Taking over the reins will be first-year head coach Ron Dickerson, Jr., who had spent the previous five seasons as a wide receivers coach at Mississippi.
Dickerson will have at his disposal 38 returning letterwinners, including 19 starters, during his first season in Boiling Springs, N.C. Eight starters return on both sides of the line of scrimmage for Gardner-Webb, plus three special teams returnees.
Outside of the Big South record-setting numbers Liberty's Chris Summers put up in 2010, James Perry, III, was the league's second-best wide receiver. The Big South first-team honoree finished 2010 with 673 total receiving yards and three touchdowns, and ranked No. 2 in the league with 65 receptions.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Chandler Browning split time with John Rock last year under center, preparing him to be the full-time starter in 2011. Last year, Browning completed 91-of-169 passing attempts for 863 yards and four touchdowns.
Gardner-Webb placed three defenders on the 2011 Big South preseason all-conference team, including returning Big South Freshman of the Year Preston Pemassa. The defensive lineman was the top rookie tackler in the league in 2010, finishing the season with 66 tackles and a league-high six sacks.
The biggest defensive loss for the Runnin' Bulldogs will be in the backfield, as Gardner-Webb will be without graduated starting cornerbacks Cedric McGowan and Bryce Nixon. The pair, who both earned Big South second-team honors in 2010, finished the season with 48 and 42 stops, respectively.
The Flames will meet up with the Runnin' Bulldogs much earlier in the season than in past years. Since 2007, Liberty has faced Gardner-Webb during the month of November each year, winning all four games by an average margin of 25.0 points per game.
Liberty will open Big South play against Gardner-Webb on Oct. 8 in Boiling Springs, N.C., marking the first time the Flames have met the Runnin' Bulldogs in the first Big South game of the year since 2006. That match-up, head coach Danny Rocco's first-ever Big South game, went to Gardner-Webb, 27-24, on Oct. 21 in Lynchburg.
In their last meeting, the Flames took the opening kickoff back 85 yards for a score, setting the tone for a 40-14 victory over the Runnin' Bulldogs in Lynchburg on Nov. 6, 2010. Summers finished the game with seven receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Mike Brown completed 20-of-31 passing attempts for 220 yards and two scores, while rushing 15 times for 77 yards and one of his nine rushing touchdowns in 2010.
The overall series between Liberty and Gardner-Webb is knotted up at 8-8-1, as previously mentioned with the Flames winning four meetings in a row.
Oct. 8, 2011 (6 p.m.)
Boiling Springs, N.C.
Ernest W. Spangler Stadium (8,000)
Location: Boiling Springs, N.C.
Nickname: Runnin' Bulldogs
Colors: Scarlet and Black
Conference: Big South
Stadium: Ernest W. Spangler Stadium (8,000)
Surface: Natural Grass
President: Dr. Frank Bonner
Athletic Director: Chuck Burch
Head Coach: Ron Dickerson, Jr. (Arkansas, '96)
Record at School: First Year
Career Record: First Year
Tony Pierce - Defensive Coordinator/Cornerbacks
Ron Dickerson, Sr. - Defensive Line
Travis Cunningham - Linebackers
Bobby Godinez - Safeties
Tucker Teckl - Defensive Asst.
Thad Ward - Passing Coordinator/Wide Receivers
Dwayne Ledford - Running Coordinator/Offensive Line
Chris Foster - Running Backs
Pete Darnell - Quarterbacks
Jim Seacord - Tight Ends/Special Teams
PLAYER & TEAM INFORMATION
2010 Record: 4-7
Conference Record/Finish: 2-4 (t-4th)
Offensive Formation: Pro Style
Defensive Formation: 4-3
Lettermen Returning/Lost: 37/21
Starters Returning/Lost: 19/10
Offensive/Defensive Starters Returning: 8/8
RELATED MATCH-UP LINKS:
Nov. 6, 2010: Liberty won, 40-14 – Recap – Box Score
Last Meeting on the Road:
Nov. 14, 2009: Liberty won, 51-28 – Recap – Box Score
Athletics Web Site
Photo Gallery - Liberty vs. Gardner-Webb - Nov. 6, 2010:
Gardner-Webb Head Coach Ron Dickerson, Jr., at Big South Football Media Day:
Big South Conference Preview Video Package, featuring Gardner-Webb: