College Football Preview: The 2014 Georgia Southern Eagles
The Georgia Southern Eagles bring their rushing attack to the Sun Belt.
2014 College Football Preview
The Georgia Southern Eagles bring their option attack to the Sun Belt in their first season in FBS.
Overview: Jeff Monken beat Florida in his last game at Georgia Southern and then left for Army to try and revamp their program. Willie Fritz takes over and inherits a team racked with injuries a year ago but has some key talent back. The question is can the team learn new schemes and compete in the Sun Belt in year one?
USA TODAY Sports
Offense: The option has been the bread and butter of the Eagles offense and that's not likely to change although some of the schemes will. Kevin Ellison ran the offense in 2013 and to nobody's surprise threw sparingly (41-79/756) and was hit or miss at 52%. However, he was the second leading rusher with 886 yards and averaged seven yards per pop. BJ Johnson was the top receiver with 12 catches and five of the top six receivers are back for an offense that will throw more but I don't know how this unit will fare. Leading rusher Jerick McKinnon is gone leaving Ellison and three players that totaled over 200 yards apiece. The O-Line has experience with All SoCon performers LT Garrett Frye and C Manrey Saint-Amour leading the way.
Defense: Getting to the quarterback wasn't a strength in 2013 and the defensive line has to improve in that area although two of their top three have departed. Seven of nine do come back to give the team a decent foundation to build on. The linebacking crew gets back leading tackler Edwin Jackson who made 72 stops but the next three graduated which leaves this group thin. However, the secondary has loads of experience with eleven players that saw the field in at least seven contests.
Special Teams: Ryan Nowicki averaged 43 yards on 19 punts and the team only attempted nine field goals with Younghoe Koo going 5-6. Matt Breida and Brandan Thomas will handle the majority of kick and punt returns respectively.
Outlook: A new head coach and some changes to schemes while stepping up in competition generally means some growing pains. I would expect Georgia Southern to win a few games and finish in the lower half of the conference but well away from the basement.