Season on the Brink: Georgia Southern Eagles Preseason Preview Part III

Part I: The Offense

Part II: Defense/Special Teams

This season is a huge question mark for Georgia Southern, plain and simple. On its surface, if you are not attuned with the minutiae of Eagle football, it does not look great from a distance. Many Eagle fans see last year as a colossal failure, a missed slam dunk. Tyson Summers inherited a roster, full of seniors, that had come off of back-to-back 9 win seasons in the program’s first two years at the FBS level. The group had won the school’s first Sun Belt Conference championship, their first bowl game, and had beaten Florida in the Swamp. Rather than choosing continuity, Summers made some dramatic changes as a first year Head Coach and reversed nearly everything that had worked under Willie Fritz.

While Fritz brought a modern approach to practice, emphasizing not tackling to the ground, recovery days, even concussion detection equipment in the helmets. Summers took a more old school approach, full contact, aimed to build “toughness.” Summers put the Strength & Conditioning program under the watch of Dr. Tredell Dorsey. It turned out that Dorsey had been arrested and charged with battery in 2007. Dorsey didn’t last the season and the S&C program languished, a program that is vital to the success of the triple option offense. Summers paid lip-service on his intent on running a “gun-triple option” attack but hired two Chris Hatcher/Air Raid disciples to run the system, David Dean, and Rance Gillespie. The result? Somewhat of two square pegs being forced into one round hole. The Eagles dropped from 1st in rushing in 2014 and 2015, to 29th in 2016 and 78th in scoring. Now both Dean and Gillespie are suing the school for “violation of contract.” Most Eagle fans would contend that the school should counter-sue them for damages incurred when they ruined what should have been a promising season.

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Preseason magazines have Georgia Southern finishing anywhere from 3rd to 8th and I don’t blame them. This is a hard season to predict. Never have I seen a young coach like Tyson Summers make such dramatic changes in one offseason. The changes are positive in my opinion. Bryan Cook, Bob Bodine, and Juston Wood bring a wealth of triple option experience that the players seem to be optimistic about. New Strength & Conditioning Coach Dwayne Chandler has NFL and P5 experience and has drawn rave reviews from Coach Summers. The schedule is easier than last year. The Eagles lost some pieces but return Fields and Ramsby, an experienced OL, and a deep and talented secondary. Summers has taken advantage of the NCAA’s new rule change, eliminating two-a-days but allowing practice to start six weeks ahead of the season. This gives the team more time to learn the new schemes and more time to recover. Since the season is so hard to predict, I’m going to go through the best and worst case scenarios for the Eagles in 2017. First the worst:

 

Worst Case Scenario

I’ll start with the bad stuff first so we can cleanse our palates with some rosy-eyed optimism. Worst case is that the QB situation never gets settled. No one emerges as an alpha of the group or worse there are injuries to an already thin unit that force a Garrett or Richardson to move back to QB. The young front seven struggles getting pressure on QBs and stopping the run. This puts more strain on the secondary to make plays. The offense never gels in time and they go into the Plains Week 1 and get absolutely demolished by Auburn. They limp on and struggle vs. New Hampshire, Indiana, and Arkansas St and the coaching staff spends the entire season on the hot seat. Summers doesn’t make it past the Appalachian State game, Bryan Cook is named the interim HC. After watching Georgia Southern get waxed by its biggest rival on national TV for the third year in a row, Southern boosters decide they have seen enough. Eagles fail to make a bowl for a 2nd straight season. At this point, nobody’s job is safe, not even AD Tom Kleinlein’s, who already has several critics among the fan base.

 

Best Case Scenario

Shai Werts emerges as the next great Eagle QB and has a surprisingly good season as a redshirt freshman. Wes Fields and LA Ramsby stay healthy and have huge seasons behind what should be a lean, mean, and experienced OL. Myles Campbell emerges as an all-purpose threat that keeps opposing defenses from crowding the box. The Eagles are back in the top 3 in the nation in running and the fan base is relatively calm. With Summers and Costantini spending more attention on the defense, Logan Hunt and Chris DeLaRosa have monster years and a few unknowns emerge as big contributors. This allows the secondary to ball hawk and forces more turnovers than last year. The Eagles go into Jordan-Hare and cover the spread against Auburn and give them a game for at least a half. Feeling optimistic, the Eagles then dust off UNH and use bye weeks to prepare for Indiana and Arkansas State respectively. They beat Indiana (or come really close) and Arkansas State and ride the momentum the rest of the way with away games at Troy and App State being the only likely losses the rest of the way. They beat rival Georgia State and finish with anywhere from 7-10 wins. 2016 is all but forgotten.

 

2017 Georgia Southern Eagles Football Schedule
Saturday Sep. 2 at Auburn Tigers
Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, AL 7:30pm ET
SECN

Saturday
Sep. 9 New Hampshire Wildcats
Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, GA 6:00pm ET
ESPN3

Sep. 23 Hoosiers at Indiana Hoosiers
Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN Time TBA
TV TBA

Wednesday
Oct. 4 Arkansas State Red Wolves
Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, GA 8:00pm ET
ESPN2

Saturday
Oct. 14 New Mexico State Aggies (HC)
Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, GA 6:00pm ET
TV TBA

Saturday
Oct. 21 at UMass Minutemen
McGuirk Stadium, Amherst, MA Time TBA
TV TBA

Saturday
Oct. 28 at Troy Trojans
Veterans Memorial Stadium, Troy, AL Time TBA
TV TBA

Saturday
Nov. 4 Georgia State Panthers
Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, GA 3:00pm ET
TV TBA

Thursday
Nov. 9 at Appalachian State Mountaineers
Kidd Brewer Stadium, Boone, NC 7:30pm ET
ESPNU

Saturday
Nov. 18 South Alabama Jaguars
Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, GA 3:00pm ET
TV TBA

Saturday
Nov. 25 at UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns
Cajun Field, Lafayette, LA Time TBA
TV TBA

Saturday
Dec. 2 at Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Brooks Stadium, Conway, SC Time TBA
TV TBA

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