Signing Day Surprise

Citadel fullback Evan McField (middle) leads the SoCon and is fourth in the nation in FCS in rushing. Russ Pace photo

A good fullback, Citadel coach Mike Houston says, needs vision and the ability to change direction quickly.

Bulldogs’ fullback Evan McField demonstrated those qualities in abundance last year on National Signing Day.

McField, then a senior at Goose Creek High School, reported to the Gators’ signing day event in February of 2014 with a South Carolina State hat in hand, fully expecting to sign with S.C. State. He was on stage with his Gators’ teammates when he changed his mind, deciding to sign with The Citadel.

Talk about change of direction.

“I just felt it was a better choice for me,” said McField, now a redshirt freshman. “I wanted to go to The Citadel, but I didn’t have an offer until then. I knew that The Citadel was where I wanted to go if I had the chance.”

That signing day surprise is paying off in full for the 2-1 Bulldogs as they prepare to face Lowcountry rival Charleston Southern (2-1) on Saturday. McField, 6-0 and 221 pounds, is leading the Southern Conference in rushing and ranks fourth in the nation in FCS with 355 yards, averaging 118.3 yards per game. He ran for 163 yards, including a 60-yard TD run, at Georgia Southern last week.

Not bad for a kid who came to The Citadel on a partial scholarship, and didn’t start his first game until last Saturday.

“At the core of everything, he’s just a good football player,” Houston said of McField, who helped Goose Creek to a state title in 2011 and rushed for 1,200 yards and 13 TDs as a senior. “He’s worked very hard to develop his God-given abilities, and he’s done a great job of taking advantage of the opportunities that he’s had.”

Citadel assistant coach Maurice Drayton recruited McField, who made several visits to the military school campus. But the Bulldogs weren’t able to offer more than a partial scholarship at first.

“You saw his potential, but you couldn’t say he was a sure-fire thing,” Houston said. “So we decided to give Evan the opportunity to come here, like ‘We’ll take a chance on you and you take a chance on us.’

“He came here on just a small chance, and he has made the most of it.”

McField redshirted last year at The Citadel, playing on the scout team as he worked to drop some weight from the 230 pounds or so that he carried at Goose Creek.

“He came in a little softer than he should be,” Houston said. “He was bigger then, but it wasn’t good weight. We really challenged him to change his body drastically, and he’s done that. But at the end of the day, it comes down to the fact that he’s got great vision, good feet and balance and runs with low pad level.”

McField’s father, Kevin, is a Moncks Corner police officer who played football at Johnson C. Smith, so Evan has the toughness required to play fullback (or B-back) in the Bulldogs’ triple option offense.

Those qualities helped McField challenge sophomore Isiaha Smith, who ran for 591 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman, for the starting job in preseason practice. Smith started the first two games, rushing for 165 yards and three TDs against Davidson and 109 yards and three more scores in a win over Western Carolina.

But Smith missed last week’s game at Georgia Southern with injury, leaving McField as one of the Bulldogs’ few bright spots in a 48-13 loss to the defending Sun Belt champ. Smith should return for Saturday’s game with Charleston Southern, giving the Bulldogs a 1-2 punch at fullback.

McField surprised on signing day, but his early success has not surprised him.

“Not really,” McField said. “I haven’t done a lot yet. Our offensive line makes it easy, and all I have to do is run.”

Run, and change direction once in a while.