Check out parts one and two of my position group preview go here:
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends/Slot Backs
One of the biggest keys to last year’s “10-losses to 10-wins” turnaround was the improved play of the offensive line. Not enough can be said of the work that OL Coach Ron Hudson and Strength & Conditioning Coach Matt Greenhalgh did on this group. In 2017, Georgia Southern averaged 20.8 points and 222.3 rushing yards per game. In 2018, those numbers jumped to 30.5 points and 266.2 rushing yards per game. Ask anyone who has followed Georgia Southern football for any period of time, and they will tell you that the success of the option offense all starts up front. As good as the unit was last year, I expect them to take another leap in 2019. As crazy as it sounds, 7th in the country in rushing is not good enough for Georgia Southern when you consider the Eagles were ranked first in 2014 and 2015.
Let’s take a look at the personnel.
LT Jarrod Leeds 6-4 290 R-So., Jake Edwards 6-4 300 6th Year
LG Aaron Dowdell 6-4 315 R-Jr., Jawaski Webb 6-2 285 R-Jr.
C Jakob Cooper 6-3 295 R-Sr., Caleb Kelly 6-2 295 R-So.
RG Lawrence Edwards 6-6 305 R-Jr., Drew Wilson 6-4 310 R-Jr.
RT Brian Miller 6-3 300 R-So., Alex Smith 6-4 300 R-Jr.
Javonte McGriff 6-1 285 Fr., Aaron Pyron 6-4 310 Fr., Derrick Newby Jr. 6-0 280 R-Sr., Peyton Johnson 6-1 305 R-So, Jeremy Smith 6-4 285 R-So., Peyton Backer 6-3 295 R-So., Khalil Crowder 6-1 300 R-Fr., Verneal Henshaw Jr. 6-4 250 Fr., Griffin Carder 6-4 300 Fr., Jordan Wiggins 6-4 265 Fr.
Jeremiah Culbreth, Curtis Rainey, Drake Grall
Jeremiah Culbreth and Curtis Rainey are the two biggest losses from the offensive line. Left tackle and center, the two most important positions on the line, big shoes to fill. But the OL returns plenty of experience in 2019. Brian Miller, Aaron Dowdell, and Jakob Cooper are all returning starters and Lawrence Edwards started four games last year as well. Brian Miller is safely entrenched at RT. Miller was perhaps the biggest surprise last year, after moving from DE in 2017, he won the job in camp and started all 13 games last year. Dowdell will be the starter at LG and Cooper will move over from RG to Center to replace Rainey.
As for RG and LT, Lawrence Edwards has tremendous size and talent and has the inside track at right guard. Drew Wilson started 10 games at guard in 2017, he should be back after sitting out 2018 with an injury. Wilson, along with Jawaski Webb will be Edwards’s main competition there.
Left tackle is a little more up for grabs. During spring practice, Jarrod Leeds, the redshirt sophomore out of Green Cove Springs, Florida, took most of the snaps with the starters. His main competition will be Jake Edwards. Edwards is in his sixth year after transferring from UGA after 2016. Despite high expectations since he arrived in Statesboro, he has never quite broken through, starting only 4 games. The Leeds vs. Edwards battle at left tackle will be one of the biggest position battles to watch in fall camp.
As for the rest of the depth chart, true freshman Javonte McGriff and redshirt freshman Khalil Crowder were both three stars coming out of high school. Caleb Kelly out of Warner Robbins will be Cooper’s main competition at center. I have junior Alex Smith listed as Brian Miller’s backup but I could see a freshman with big size like Aaron Pryon or Griffin Carder surprise people in camp.