Nathan Storch

The Citadel B-back Nathan Storch celebrates a touchdown against Coastal Carolina with teammate Raleigh Webb. Provided/Citadel Athletics

From a Citadel point of view, the most telling number from the Bulldogs' season opening loss at No. 22 Coastal Carolina might have been this: Five.

That's how many B-backs (also known as fullbacks) The Citadel was without for the 52-14 loss on Sept. 2 in Conway.

Three B-backs were out with injuries, and two more were unavailable due for non-injury reasons.

That left the Bulldogs right back where they were in the COVID-19 spring season: Depending on Nathan Storch, a converted walk-on defensive lineman who was not even recruited by Citadel coaches — at a position that is key in the triple-option offense, perhaps behind only the quarterback in importance. 

Storch, 6-0 and 230 pounds, is a great story and looks the part with his old-school neck roll. He ran for 536 yards and a touchdown in eight games last spring, and at Coastal Carolina shouldered the burden with 23 carries for 68 yards against a talented Chants front.

But let's face it. As Bulldogs coach Brent Thompson acknowledged Monday, Storch needs some help.

"He does," said Thompson, whose team plays host to crosstown rival Charleston Southern on Sept. 11. "He's carried the load, and we're grateful to have him. But that is a position that takes a beating.

"He's banging out three or four yards a carry and doing the best he can, but you are a much better team when you have two or three of those guys that can play."

Graduate transfer Alex Ramsey, an All-American at VMI, was lost for the season with a knee injury in preseason camp, and Logan Billings and Clay Harris are both sidelined with injury right now. They could both return eventually.

The good news is that Emeka Nwanze and Braden Walker will return this week. Walker, a 6-0, 195-pound freshman, redshirted last season; Nwanze, a 6-0, 215-pound redshirt sophomore, has 120 career carries for 335 yards and a touchdown.

Historically, The Citadel has been at its best when the B-back position is not only good for four yards a pop, but a source of explosive plays. When the Bulldogs won Southern Conference crowns in 2015 and 2016, production at B-back was key.

In 2015, B-backs Tyler Renew, Isiaha Smith and Evan McField combined for 1,818 yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging 5.5 yards per carry with long runs of 56, 83 and 60 yards, respectively.

In 2016, Renew carried more of the load with 1,096 yards and six TDs on 251 carries, averaging 4.4 yards with a long run of 70 yards. Slotbacks Reggie Williams and Cam Jackson and quarterback Dom Allen each ran for more than 700 yards on that 10-2 team.

And the 1992 SoCon title team was anchored by All-America fullback Everette Sands, who famously was never tackled for a loss while gaining 3,926 yards in his career. 

"You've got to get three or four yards no matter what," said Thompson. "Those are mis-reads, the ones that they give you. I thought we established the fullback fairly well against Coastal Carolina ... But you'd like to turn some of those five and six yards into 10 or 12, and look for a back that has a little bit of explosiveness."

The depth situation at B-back might hasten the progress of Elijah Bass, an active-duty Marine who is currently playing B-back for the scout team. A lacrosse player in high school, the 6-0, 230-pound Bass is a project, but also one of the fastest players on the team.

Notes

• True freshmen who played against Coastal included linebacker Je'Mazin Roberts and quarterback Ahmad Green, Thompson said. Green played on special teams ... All-SoCon safety Chris Beverly will return to the starting lineup this week after opting out of the spring season ... The secondary also will be shuffled, with freshman Dominick Poole earning some more snaps at cornerback.

• SoCon so far: A solid start for the league included ETSU's 23-3 win over Vanderbilt, the SoCon's first win over a Power Five team since The Citadel beat the ACC's Georgia Tech 27-24 in 2019. Furman, Wofford, VMI, Mercer and Samford all opened with good wins; Western Carolina threw 44 passes for 275 yards in Kerwin Bell's coaching debut, but missed a 56-yard field goal at the end to lose to Eastern Kentucky 31-28.

Not so good: Preseason favorite Chattanooga struggled on offense in a 30-20 loss to No. 20 Austin Peay. QB Drayton Arnold was just 11 of 26 for 120 yards with one TD and two interceptions, and the Mocs ran for only 98 yards. 

There were six FCS wins over FBS programs on opening weekend, the most in one weekend since 2013. Montana’s win against No. 20 Washington marked the sixth FCS win over a Top 25 FBS program.

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