With the 2019 season just around the corner, I will bring you a position-by-position breakdown of the Georgia Southern roster. I am going to divide the offensive side of the ball into three groups: the backfield (QB, RB), receivers (WR, TE, SB), and the offensive line.
Starter: Shai Werts 5-11 205, R-Jr.
Backups: Justin Tomlin 5-11 190, R-Fr., Jaalon Frazier 6-2 200, R-So., Jaden Jenkins 6-3 205, Fr.
Losses: LaBaron Anthony, Ivan Corbin
The Eagles are in good hands at with returning starter Shai Werts at the helm. Werts enters his junior season as one of the best signal-callers in the Sun Belt. He’s coming off of a breakout sophomore campaign where finished just shy of 1,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing (987 passing, 908 yards rushing). He accounted for 25 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and 3 fumbles. His passing efficiency rating (159.4) topped all QBs in the Sun Belt, even Zac Thomas and Justice Hansen. He’s even caught the eyes of scouts:
The eight-win turnaround Georgia Southern pulled off last season would not have been possible without Werts’s leadership. It was his 29-yard scramble on 4th and 10 with 1:45 left in the Camellia Bowl that won the game for the Eagles.
Georgia Southern’s schedule takes a step up in difficulty in 2019, with trips to LSU, Minnesota, Appalachian State, Troy, and Arkansas State on the docket. Most experts expect Georgia Southern to take a slight step back next season (Connelly, Athlon). The wild-card in this scenario is the continued progression of Werts. If he makes yet another giant leap in development, then anything is in play for the Eagles (beating Minnesota, SBC Title, double digit wins, Top 25).
Behind Werts it is a bit more of a question mark. The quarterback in an option offense takes a lot of hits. It’s essential to have a competent backup in case the starter gets his bell rung. Georgia Southern has a history of having solid backups (Upshaw, Hunter, Youyoute).
LaBaron Anthony graduated and Ivan Corbin left the team. The options are very thin. Redshirt Freshman Justin Tomlin had an impressive spring and seems to be the leader in the clubhouse for the backup spot. Jaalon Frazier has impressive size at 6-2 200 but has yet to live up to expectations and saw time at TE last season. True Freshman Jaden Jenkins might be the most promising one of them all. The 6-3 205, 3-star recruit could be the future of the position post-Werts.
Starters: Wesley Kennedy III 5-10 175, Jr., Logan Wright 6-0 225, R-So.
Backups: Matt LaRoche 5-9 175, R-So., Andrew Cunningham 6-0 215, R-Fr., Jared Daniels 5-9 180, R-So., Gerald Green 5-9 185, Fr.
Transfers: J.D. King 5-11 210, Jr. Oklahoma State, Joshua Fields 5-9 195, Jr. UTEP
Losses: Wesley Fields, Monteo Garrett, Grant Walker
At runningback, the Eagles will have to replace both of their starters, Wesley Fields and Monteo Garrett, from last year. They combined for 1822 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns in ’18. Wesley Fields has moved onto the NFL where he joins fellow Eagles Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida with the 49ers. Replacing their production will come down to a combination of Wesley Kennedy III, Logan Wright, Matt “Speedy” LaRoche, and Andrew Cunningham.
Wesley Kennedy is perhaps the most dangerous weapon Georgia Southern has on offense and special teams. Kennedy tallied 1306 all-purpose yards last season at runningback, slot back, and returner. He is an explosive offensive talent in the mold of Percy Harvin. I expect him to become the primary ball carrier alongside Logan Wright.
Redshirt sophomore Logan Wright broke onto the scene with a 17 carry, 136 yard, 2 TD performance against New Mexico State. He had ran into some legal problems this offseason that Lunsford handled internally. Wright is a bruising bowling ball type runner that is the perfect complement to Kennedy.
Outside of Kennedy and Wright, Matt LaRoche and Andrew Cunningham should play bigger roles in the offense in ’19. LaRoche is a small speedy back that should serve as Kennedy’s backup. Cunningham briefly spent time this offseason in the transfer portal before deciding to return back to Statesboro. He was a borderline 4-star recruit before tearing his ACL his senior year of high school. He is a big physical runner, similar to Wright.
Outside of those four, the options get a bit murkier. This is the thinnest Georgia Southern has been at runningback since possibly the Hatcher years (not in terms of talent, but numbers). Grant Walker transferred to Iowa Central CC. So only walk-on Jared Daniels and true freshman Gerald Green are left on the depth chart.
A duo of transfers have been added to the roster: J.D. King from Oklahoma State, and Joshua Fields from UTEP. Only Fields has a chance of playing in 2019. Fields’ brother Jack Fields, former RB at Boise State, recently passed away under tragic circumstances, which may qualify him for a hardship waiver. Lord knows the NCAA has done it for less (Justin Fields, Joshua Jackson, Tate Martell). King will provide much needed depth for 2020 and beyond.