ORANGEBURG - Two years ago, Asheton Jordan was the top freshman running back in the Southern Conference with a promising future ahead of him at The Citadel.
Today, the Stratford High product will play in South Carolina State's Garnet and Blue spring game with an eye toward securing a starting spot on coach Buddy Pough's team in the fall.
It's a fresh start for the 6-foot, 206-pound Jordan, who spent last season on S.C. State's scout team after transferring from The Citadel, where he rushed for 711 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman in 2008.
"It was tough to see them play every day last year and to just be running scout team," Jordan said before a recent spring practice. "I was glad to help the team get as far as they did, but I'm ready to be out there playing now."
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Jordan and S.C. State's other running backs have huge shoes to fill with the departure of Will Ford, who rushed for 1,032 yards and eight touchdowns a year ago while leading S.C. State to a 10-2 record, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title and a berth in the FCS playoffs. Ford is the all-time leading rusher in MEAC and S.C. State history.
"Any time you follow a guy who is the leading rusher in the history of your conference, that's pretty heavy stuff," Pough said. "But I think Asheton has got a shot. He's got kind of a crazy running style, a wild-looking style, but he finds space, and that's the key for a running back. He goes where they ain't, and he can make some guys miss, too."
That's the style Citadel fans remember from Jordan's freshman season in 2008. He twice won SoCon player-of-the-week honors and was named to the SoCon's inaugural all-freshman team. He ran for 118 yards on 25 carries in an overtime loss to Georgia Southern, gained 110 yards on 18 carries against Western Carolina, went for 83 yards on 11 attempts against Furman and returned eight kickoffs for a school-record 200 yards, including a 41-yarder, at third-ranked Florida.
But Jordan's career at The Citadel ended unhappily when he ran afoul of the military school's honor code, forcing him to transfer.
"My memories of The Citadel are good," Jordan said. "I liked that program. If I could have stayed there, it would have been nice. But I'm here now, and I'm focusing on that."
Jordan described the atmosphere at S.C. State as a little more "relaxed."
"There's no military stuff, obviously," he said. "But it's still football. And coach Pough gets on you. He makes sure that you stay straight with your academics."
Despite his success at The Citadel, Jordan does not have a starting spot nailed down. He's competing with Timberland High's Rock King, rising senior Chris Massey and rising junior Chris Merrill to replace Ford. King, 5-9 and 190 pounds, redshirted last season, while Massey and Merrill combined for seven carries.
"Massey is really a talent and maybe the odds-on guy to beat," Pough said. "But he only has one year to play, so that would be a patch-it-for-a-year kind of deal. What we are looking for is a guy who can get in there and fill the bill for the long term."
Jordan's resume at The Citadel and performance on the scout team last season indicate he could be that guy.
"On the scout team, Asheton was always looked at to be someone special each week," Pough said. "Now, after being everybody else's best running back, he gets to be himself."