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Some shine at GSU scrimmage

POSTED: April 13, 2011 10:08 a.m.

Editor’s note: This is a sports column by Statesboro Herald sports editor Matt Yogus. It contains opinion.

On Saturday, the Georgia Southern Eagles had their final scrimmage before next Friday’s Blue and White game, and while the quarterbacks wore red jerseys and avoided contact (mostly) and most of the offensive plays were run from the shotgun, there certainly were some folks that stood out on offense.
Jaybo Shaw
Saturday was the first time the GSU quarterback really got into the thick of things since he’s been recovering from offseason surgery, but to be honest, he looked like the same guy that led the Eagles to the semifinals.
He looked pretty good throwing the football, including a touchdown pass to slotback Nico Hickey, but running the football was where he really seemed to shine.
Sure, the plays were blown dead before he was tackled, but he looked like he may even have gained a step since the 2010 season.
“I like to think so,” he said after the scrimmage. “It’s coming along. I feel better and better.”
Still, with Shaw and Jerick McKinnon the only quarterbacks currently getting snaps, the coaching staff is taking precautions to get through the final week of spring camp.
“It’s tag,” head coach Jeff Monken said about the red jerseys on Shaw and McKinnon, “and that doesn’t make it quite the same. … I wish we had a few more healthy guys in a couple of those positions so we didn’t have to worry about it so much.”
Jonathan Bryant
I remember the first half of the 2010 season opener against Savannah State. All the talk in the press box was about receiver-turned-slotback Jonathan Bryant. He was catching passes, running the football and even returning punts.
Then he got hurt and missed the entire season.
Well, he’s back, and he certainly isn’t shying away from contact. Even though he narrowly missed a touchdown when he met linebacker Kyle Oehlbeck at the goal line in a nasty collision during the scrimmage, he kept running hard, and perhaps most importantly, dealt out some hits when he was blocking.
“He’s been hobbling and limping and hurting the whole spring, and he hasn’t sat out one play,” Monken said. “He’s been an iron man.”
Bryant wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I come from a small town, and all we did was play football,” he said. “I just like to go out there and play hard. You give your best effort. That’s what we all try to do. I talk to my dad mostly every night, and he tells me, ‘It’s going to come with practice.’ So I try not to think about it and just go at it headfirst.”
Willie Burden
 Playing on the defensive line for the Statesboro Blue Devils seems like an eternity ago for rising junior Willie Burden. He’s had three different numbers and played three different positions since becoming an Eagle. Now that they’ve added a tight end to the offense, he hopes No. 35 is the number he’ll stay with.
“I’m loving the position change,” Burden said. “I feel like it gives me an opportunity to get on the field and use my assets. [Offensive coordinator Brent] Davis came to me in the offseason and said they were going to be using tight ends this year and that he’d like me to try it out. It wasn’t that big of a transition since I was moved to offense last year. I kind of got ahead of the learning curve.”
His first time on the field for GSU was against South Dakota State in 2009, and he’s now a tight end where he spends his time blocking defensive backs and maybe even getting the chance to get the football in his hands.
“He’s not a really, really big guy, which makes it tough for him to play inside on offense or defense,” Monken said. “He’s not as long as some of those guys — Brett Moore or maybe even [Terico] Agnew body types — but we feel like that position on offense really fits him.”

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