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Will the Citadel play football in 2020? 34 players skip start of fall camp.

Two Citadel players, including the SoCon’s leading rusher from 2019, have already opted out of the 2020 season.

NCAA Football: The Citadel at Georgia Tech Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Phil Steele Magazine has pegged Citadel linebacker Willie Eubanks III and b-back Alex Ramsey as the preseason Southern Conference Defensive and Offensive Players of the Year. In all, Steele put 13 Bulldogs on his preseason teams, and the Citadel seems primed to have a solid season.

However, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that the football team from the senior military college in South Carolina will play in 2020.

According to the Charleston Post & Courier on Friday, 34 Citadel players did not show up for the first practice of fall camp, and Ramsey — who transferred to the Citadel from VMI — is opting out of playing this season because of concerns about COVID-19. Ramsey led the SoCon in rushing last season with 22 touchdowns and 1,326 yards. Sophomore offensive lineman Tyrell Earl also opted out.

Head coach Brent Thompson seemed to be understanding.

“I respect the decisions by these players and will listen and act accordingly here in the next couple of days,” Thompson told the Post & Courier. “We recognize this season is uncharted territory for all of us, and we want to continue to work hard and be communicative and take care of each other. That is my number one goal, the safety of my players as they return to campus, and it’s an on-going process right now.”

While several FCS leagues — including the Patriot, Ivy, MEAC, CAA and Big Sky — have suspended their fall football seasons, the Southern Conference has not made a clear decision yet. The SoCon did release a statement on Thursday saying that a “comprehensive review of the COVID-19 environment and the plans for fall sports” was “ongoing.”

The Citadel is supposed to open its season at home on Sept. 5 against Elon (the Phoenix still plan to play, apparently, despite its conference opting out). The Bulldogs were supposed to play at Clemson on Nov. 14, but that game seems to be in limbo. After the ACC’s schedule restructure, Clemson’s open date for a non-conference game is now Sept. 19, but the Citadel is scheduled to play Charleston Southern that day.

Still, Thompson said they “are planning to play” the Tigers.

We’ll see about that.

Jeff Hartsell, the Post & Courier reporter who covers the Citadel, says that about 700 cadets are supposed to arrive on campus Saturday.

The Bulldogs went 6-6 last season and notably won at Georgia Tech in overtime, pulling off the rare FCS-over-Power-5 upset. The Citadel also had the sixth best rushing offense in FCS last year, scampering ahead for an average of 268.2 yards per-game.