Georgia Southern and Running Backs. They go together like peanut butter & jelly. Thanks to the play of Jerick McKinnon for the Vikings and Matt Breida for the 49ers, the NFL is starting to figure this out. McKinnon scored the first touchdown in what ended up being an incredible Divisional Round matchup against the Saints. His has become an integral weapon on a team one win away from a Super Bowl.
Georgia Southern famously has a “runts try harder” ethos going back to Erk Russell. Before 2013 the three most well-known Eagles to make it in the NFL were The OG Adrian Peterson, Super Bowl Champion Fred Stokes, and Kiwaukee Thomas. Georgia Southern went a full decade from 2003-2013 without having a single player drafted by an NFL team. But then Jeff Monken came along.
What Georgia Southern fans experienced from 2010-2013, and what Army fans know now is that Monken is a master at player development. He transformed a “slow” wide receiver from Cairo, GA named J.J. Wilcox into an NFL safety with 39 career starts. He transformed a 5’10 180 lbs-soaking-wet QB from Marietta called Jerick McKinnon into an all-purpose homerun threat out of the backfield for the possible NFC champion Minnesota Vikings. Monken’s prowess at player development kickstarted a pipeline of talent from Statesboro to the League.
Jeff Monken overhauled the player development system that notoriously fell by the wayside under the Van Gorder and Hatcher years. Results of said overhaul were evident as early as game two of the Monken era when the Eagles slugged their way to a 13-6 loss to Navy on 9/11. It’s the same game where he gave this speech. They didn’t win the game that day, but the defense led by all-conference DT Brent “ManBearPig” Russell dominated an excellent Navy OL and out-physical them for much of the game. The change was evident.
Willie Fritz carried the player development torch well during his two-year stay. Since 2013 Georgia Southern has had five players drafted by NFL teams and currently has the following guys on active rosters: Jerick McKinnon (Vikings), J.J. Wilcox (Steelers), Matt Breida (49ers), Ukeme Eligwe (Chiefs), Antwoine Williams (Vikings), and Montay Crockett (Jaguars). Younghoe Koo (Chargers) and Edwin Jackson (Colts) could easily find themselves onto an NFL roster before next season.
If it weren’t for Tyson Summers, Matt Breida would probably have been a middle round draft pick. Breida’s drop off in production in 2016 was such a red flag to NFL teams that he ended up undrafted. I think he could quickly make a case against Summers on Judge Judy if he wanted to, but Matt is a bigger man than that.
This leads us to the next in the line of Georgia Southern backs, Little Alfred “L.A.” Ramsby. Let’s make sure he doesn’t slip through the cracks like Breida did, despite having a similar drop off in production under Tyson Summers. Interestingly enough Ramsby played a game Sunday as well, the SPIRAL Tropical Bowl in Dayton Beach, a college all-star showcase with 27 NFL teams in attendance. L.A. Ramsby made the most of his limited opportunities:
LA Ramsby has spent four years as Georgia Southern’s primary short-yardage back. His style is north and south, between the tackles, and physical. Including interims, Ramsby had five different head coaches since signing with Georgia Southern in 2013 as a QB out of Cincinnati, Ohio. He redshirted his freshman year before Willie Fritz moved him to running back, where he flourished, scoring 39 touchdowns in 48 career starts.
Ramsby finished his career with 2,432 rushing yards on 536 carries, 4.5 yards per carry. His best season was 2015 where he had 823 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. His production took a dip during the brief, yet tumultuous Tyson Summers era, but he still managed to get over 4 yards a carry despite having three offensive coordinators in two seasons.
Despite the storm around him, Ramsby remained a calm, veteran influence in the locker room this past season. He was still the go-to guy on the goal line and short yardage situations. I would caution scouts against putting too much weight on the dip in production his junior and senior seasons. His 5’11 200 frame is big enough to play RB in the NFL. He has good vision and a physical running style that works at the next level.
He was never the feature back for Georgia Southern, splitting carries with Matt Breida and Wesley Fields during his tenure, but he remained a starter for four years. There’s not a lot of mileage on Ramsby’s tires. 536 carries is not an excessive amount for a guy that started for as many games as he did. He’s fresher than some of the higher profile backs.
Will Ramsby get drafted? Hard to say. But does he deserve an invite to the NFL combine? I think he does. Matt Breida did not get an invite last year, and that turned out to be a mistake. Maybe they’ve learned that running backs from Georgia Southern are worth paying attention to? I mean, if I ran the L.A. Rams I couldn’t help but give a guy named L.A. Ramsby at least a training camp invite.