On the field with Mike Houston

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- He led Lenoir-Rhyne to the Division II national title game a year ago, but now he's on the sideline in Charleston, wearing bulldog blue.

It was a tough decision for Mike Houston, who had a wife and two young sons to consider as well. But he was the man the school wanted to lead the program.

"Being a head coach at a Division I school was a goal of mine. Being able to achieve that, being from the southeast, knowing the SoCon pretty well, I felt very comfortable coming into this league and Charleston is a great place for our family," he said.

Houston is a regimented guy, perfect for a military college: methodical, intense, and tough. He's slow and steadily building his plans for The Citadel, a microcosm of his own career.

He worked his way up from a high school coach in Asheville to Hickory to Charleston.

"I've been the guy who paints the field, the guy who cuts the grass. I've been the guy who runs the weight room. I've done all of those things as a high school coach which is a lot. I think at the same time that experience, put in perspective, the daily life of a college coach, the time demands are pretty significant and that's probably the biggest difference," Houston said.

Many things are changing for Houston, but many others will stay the same -- namely his staff, his philosophy, and his outlook.

"I would say our players would convey it will be hard-nosed, intense, a fiery attitude especially in practice. On game days, I always try to keep my composure a bit more. Our teams have played the way we practice, which is intense. We need to -- in the past we have to regulate so we didn't go too far over the edge," he said. "Fiery and Intense."

He'll need that intensity on the field. His Bulldogs open the season against Coastal Carolina and a trip to Florida State.

"A game like FSU -- to play someone like that -- you are the home opener for the defending national champion who has the reigning Heisman trophy winner playing for them. How many times in history does that happen?" he asked.

Bright-eyed and ready to take a swing at the best. And he has the support of The Citadel behind him.

"If we can become a team that does the things that good things do, I think we can be very competitive and put ourselves in situations to win a lot of ball games. How well can we do the little things? Penalties, converting important downs late, keep our composure when we have to keep our composure -- can we do all those things which typically our teams have done? If we do those things, I think you can look up and have as good a shot as anybody," Houston said.

Armed with an opportunity, results don't seem to be a problem for Houston.