For better or for worse, America is slowly creeping back open. My home state of Georgia made national headlines last month by becoming the first state to attempt a large-scale reopening. Other states around the rest of the country are following suit. 13 out of the 14 SEC schools have announced plans to reopen their college campuses for Fall classes, an important sign that the 2020 season may go on as planned after all. Penn State coach James Franklin seems to think conferences should play even if not all schools participate.
It’s a gigantic jigsaw puzzle. Some states are opening now; other states may remain closed deep into the Fall. A lot of uncertainty remains. We don’t know if fans will be allowed into the stadiums. No one knows if there will be a second wave. We don’t know when a vaccine or effective treatment will be available.
But if I read between the lines, it looks like the SEC still plans to play in the Fall. I should’ve known that not even a global pandemic could stop the South from playing college football. The situation could change, but if the SEC is going to play, then I imagine the Sun Belt will as well. They share practically the same geographical footprint. Not only that, but their respective athletic departments depend upon football revenue to fund the other sports. The stakes are high.
So for now, I’m going to assume the season is still a go. What it will look like remains a mystery, but for the sake of all of our sanity, let’s indulge. Over the next several weeks, I will breakdown Georgia Southern’s roster heading into 2020. Let’s start with the backfield.
Returning Starter: Shai Werts 5-11 205, R-Sr.
One thing that has gotten me through this quarantine is the training videos that Shai Werts has posted on Instagram, including one with Antonio Brown. It’s great to see Werts hone his craft during this downtime. He looks laser-focused on the upcoming season.
Werts is heading into the senior year of what has been a roller-coaster career at Georgia Southern. His first year as a starter was the disastrous 2-10 season in 2017. He followed that up with an incredible 10-3 turnaround season in 2018. Then last season started with the infamous, phony, bird poop scandal, and a shoulder injury vs. LSU that forced him to miss the Maine and Minnesota games.
His career stats of 2,715 yards passing, 26 TDs, 6 INTs, and 2,363 yards rushing with 23 rushing TDs ranks among the best to play the QB position at Georgia Southern. Yet his 18-17 career record as a starter is a controversial sticking point. He has one last chance as a senior to solidify his legacy and take his place among the pantheon of Eagle signal-callers.
Depth: Justin Tomlin 5-11 190, R-So., Miller Mosley 5-10 190, R-Sr. (Transfer-Wofford), Will Lovett 6-3 230 R-Jr., Samuel Kenerson 5-9 170, Fr., Connor Cigelske 6-0 190 Fr., Alex Bowen 6-0 195 Fr.
Justin Tomlin acquitted himself quite well when he forced into duty following Wert’s injury. He started two games against Maine and Minnesota and performed very well for a redshirt freshman. Tomlin exhibited poise and a calm command of the offense in those two games. He nearly led the Eagles to an upset over a Minnesota team that finished in the top 10. He appears to be the first in line to take over the QB job in 2021 and beyond. It’ll be interesting to see if Tomlin gets an increased role in 2020.
Tomlin’s number one competitor for the starting job post-2020 might be Samuel Kenerson. Kenerson was a December signee and Georgia Southern’s top-rated recruit, according to 247 Sports. Out of Central High in Baton Rouge, La., Kenerson played both offense and defense in high school. He’s an elusive runner and has a good arm for his size. It’s too soon to throw around Jayson Foster comparisons, but if Kenerson lives up to his potential, that’s the closest comparison that comes to mind.
Connor Cigelske and Alex Bowen were two February signees. Cigelske played at Marist in Atlanta, alma mater to LA Rams Coach Sean McVay. He was a first-team all-state athlete at the AAAA level and was a two-way threat in high school, he threw for 1,500 yards and 14 TDs and running for 1,400 yards and 23 TDs his senior year. Will Lovett and Alex Bowen are both walk-ons that should get extensive work on the scout teams.
Miller Mosley is a grad-transfer from Wofford where he was the primary backup to starter Joe Newman.
Returning Starters: Wesley Kennedy III 5-10 180 Sr., J.D. King 5-11 220 Sr.
It’s no question that Wesley Kennedy is the most talented offensive weapon that Georgia Southern has outside of Shai Werts. Last year, the Eagles were 1-3 while he was on academic suspension and 6-3 after he came back. If Kennedy and Werts had played against Minnesota, there’s no question that the result would have been different. Kennedy accounted for 1,199 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns in only nine games.
His backfield mate, Oklahoma State transfer J.D. King, was the thunder to Kennedy’s lightning. He had a productive 2019 season as the between-the-tackles workhorse for Georgia Southern. King had 804 yards and 8 TDs and was an All-Sun Belt honorable mention in his first season in Statesboro. Success in 2020 hinges on whether Bob DeBesse can find a way to maximize the talent that Kennedy and King have and making sure the offensive line can create holes for them.
Depth: Logan Wright 6-0 225 R-Jr., Matt Laroche 5-9 180 R-Jr., Gerald Green 5-9 195 R-Fr., Jalen White 6-0 205 Fr., A.J. Brown 5-6 165 R-Fr., Myles Freeman 6-0 175 R-Fr., Jordan Pearson 5-9 190 R-Fr.
The most significant question mark in the backfield is Logan Wright. Wright suffered a neck injury early in the 2019 season that ended his season. Wright has shown promise in his limited opportunities as an Eagle. He came on strong late in the 2018 season and picked up where he left off early in 2019 until his injury. If he remains healthy, that would be a tremendous boost to Georgia Southern’s offense.
Matt “Speedy” LaRoche is Kennedy’s primary backup; he had 333 yards on 62 carries and 1 TD in 2019. Gerald Green played in four games as a true freshman but was still able to redshirt. He showed some impressive flashes of talent in limited opportunities last year. Green is an integral part of the Eagles post-2020 plans at running back.
So is February signee Jalen White. White led the entire country in rushing and set an Alabama state record with 3,517 yards. That is not a misprint. He was named first-team all-USA by USA Today. The stats he put up a AA Daleville High are just staggering. Forty-eight touchdowns, 14 2-point conversions, he racked up 65 tackles and made 3 INTs on defense. He even punted for a 35-yard average. He was mister everything in high school, and Eagle fans are eager to see what he can do at the next level.