Georgia Southern spent much of the last two seasons as a juggernaut in the Sun Belt. They struggled at times, but still led the nation in rushing. They plowed through opposing teams and were a joy to watch. It wasn’t just on offense, either. It was defense, too.
This season, with much of the defensive front 4 and virtually every skill position player returning, there was a lot of reason for optimism. Sure, there was a new coaching staff, but no one could mess up a well-oiled machine, could they?
Well, it turns out they can.
At first, I thought it was only the blocking. Then I started acknowledging the issues with play-calling that at times seemed like throwing darts on a board. Then the defensive tackling began struggling. Now, after a loss at the hands of a struggling ULL Ragin’ Cajuns team, it’s time to admit the truth: this experiment has failed.
Normally, you give a coaching staff at least 3-4 years. Most coaching staffs don’t return an entire offense worth of skill players including two outstanding QBs and three amazing RBs and then proceed to struggle to move the football. I’ve seen the running backs run straight into an offensive line with zero holes in it one too many times.
What makes this worse is the seeming refusal for the coaching staff to take any blame. At halftime of the Arkansas State game, Tyson Summers said the running backs weren’t doing well enough.
The running backs.
The same running backs who ran through everyone for the last two years. No, Tyson. It’s not them. It’s the complete lack of blocking and using them effectively. These players were great before you and your staff got here. They were ready to stay great. They deserve so much better than what you and your staff have done for them.
Look, I get what Athletic Director Tom Kleinlein wanted. He wanted a coach who wanted to be in Statesboro. He didn’t want a coach who would jump at the first opportunity in a year or two. He didn’t want the coaching carousel that teams like Arkansas State have had over the last few seasons.
Here’s the thing, though. Arkansas State has still won the Sun Belt quite a few times in those years under those multiple coaches.
Georgia Southern just continues to spiral downward.
I love Georgia Southern. I love Statesboro, Georgia. There’s one thing I still acknowledge, though: in today’s coaching world, teams like Georgia Southern aren’t going to hold on to a good coach for long. I don’t care how much they love Georgia Southern. Three years into FBS, Georgia Southern doesn’t have the purse to compete when bigger schools come calling.
It’s nice to think that Georgia Southern found a coach who wants to be in Statesboro. I’d rather have an up-and-coming coach with experience who knows how to win. It’s easier to let other schools pay you a buyout and go find another up-and-comer who is looking to make a name for themselves than it is to pay the money to fire a coach.
There are a lot of issues with Georgia Southern football right now. There is former Strength and Conditioning coach Tredell Dorsey who just quietly disappeared from the official site and no explanation was ever given.
There are the injuries to the skill players which could be an offshoot of the loss to the S&C program. You could, perhaps, even tie in some of the blocking issues and defensive line struggles to it, as well, as the Eagles often appear to be physically man-handled on the field. None of that explains the complete lack of discipline on the field and the awful number of penalties the Eagles have picked up.
Then there’s the play-calling. Tyson Summers came in and said the Eagles would be a shotgun triple-option team. I have seen zero evidence of that being the truth. I – and plenty of other Eagles fans – feel completely lied to by the coach, and in his opening press conference, no less.
I get wanting to make fans happy, but I’d have been happier being told the truth. The first signs of worry were when Summers hired Rance Gillespie and David Dean as Co-Offensive Coordinators. Both have had success, but neither have ever run an option offense before.
There is a chance this gets turned around. Seth Shuman is just a freshman forced into the fire and it is obvious he’s a good passing quarterback. There’s a chance that next year’s offense will be more like the Hatch-Attack and be able to score points where this year’s offense could not. Maybe Summers will be successful at Georgia Southern in the long term.
I just don’t see it happening. I see the Hatcher years all over again. Poor defense. A lack of the running identity – whether triple option or otherwise – that Georgia Southern has always been known for and succeeded with. I see Georgia Southern struggling just when it – as a program – can least afford it.
Georgia Southern had all of the momentum in the world coming off two strong seasons and a bowl win. That’s all been squandered, now. It’s going to be much harder to get fans to make it to Statesboro from Atlanta (where much of the alumni base is) for weeknight games when the product on the field resembles what it does right now.
At some point, the administration is going to have to ask itself a very tough question: what will be a better return on investment in the long run? Paying the buyout and starting over, or suffering through mediocrity and watching a once-proud program become just another paycheck game for the big boys?
It seems crazy to write that when this coaching staff’s first season isn’t even over, yet. But, when you’re handed the keys to a Ferrari and turn it into a Vespa, then it becomes much easier to acknowledge. This was an experiment. It’s failed.
Whether the administration is willing to admit that and do something about it will have to wait. Personally, I don’t have my hopes up too high.