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Eagle football back in full pads
GSU Eagles - photo by Photo provided / Coastal Courier
STATESBORO -- The Eagles returned to full pads Tuesday morning for their 12th practice at the Georgia Southern football practice fields.
After a period of fundamentals work through team offensive and defensive, special teams and one-on-one drills, the Eagles moved into skeleton and full offense versus defense drills.
The Eagles continue to build upon previous practices, with the defense continuing to produce big plays, totaling three sacks and a pair of interceptions. Quentin Taylor (Apopka, Fla./Apopka HS) made a take down for a loss, while teammate Kerry Bonds (Tallahassee, Fla./Lincoln) had a sack.
Both Matthew Rucker (Lilburn/Parkview) and Jermaine Murphy (Kennesaw/Harrison) used their quick hands to pick off passes.
The offense proved just as effective as the defense in scrimmage action. Quarterback Lee Chapple (Norcross/Greater Atlanta Christian) connected with Darrell Norman (Lincoln/Lincoln County) for a touchdown. On foot, Ri'Chard Davis (Fayetteville/Fayette County) and Ricky Ponton (Tampa, Fla./Hillsborough) ran in for short touchdowns.
With only two spring practices remaining before the Blue-White game on Saturday, second-year head coach Chris Hatcher is pleased with how things are shaping up, but notes that there is still room for improvement.
"I thought we did well," Hatcher said. "I think both the offense and defense are getting better. We're getting a little more conditioned and playing a little more physical football... Hopefully we'll see a lot of improvement in every facet of the game."
Transitioning from shells on Monday to full pads brought players the opportunities to show intensity.
"When we're in helmets it is full speed," Hatcher said. "They like to tackle. They like to do all of that. But our intensity has been good, pretty much throughout the whole spring. Today we were in full pads but we didn't do a whole lot of full tackling drills."
The Eagles defensive line has continued to progress even as some members continue to recover from off-season injuries.
Senior Larry Beard (Fairburn/Sandy Creek) earned First Team All-Southern Conference honors by both the coaches and Sports Media Association. Fellow senior Damon Suggs (Lithonia/Southwest DeKalb) was a second team pick by the league's head coaches. Beard made 32 tackles, including a team-leading four sacks, and returned one of the three fumbles he recovered for a touchdown. Suggs, who played as a true-freshman, made 41 tackles last fall after accumulating only seven stops during his first two years.
Another senior Matt Wise (Hazlehurst/Jeff Davis) suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during the win at Appalachian State. He continues his recovery but cannot participate in contact drills.
Several other upperclassmen also return, making the defensive line one of the deepest positions on the team. Seniors Casey Wingard (Acworth/Etowah) and Branden Daniel (Pompano Beach, Fla./Ely) along with juniors Kerry Bonds, Charwell Brown (Brunswick/Brunswick), Jonathan Loving (Fayetteville/Fayette County) and sophomores Austin Watts (Fayetteville/Starr's Mill) and Antonio Solomon (Savannah/Jenkins).
Defensive coordinator Ashley Anders likes the way line is progressing, in spite of depth issues.
"I see them getting better," he said. "The thing of it is that we don't have a whole lot of depth right now."
The Blue-White game is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday at Paulson Stadium. Play-by-play voice Chris Blair and color analyst Terry Harvin will broadcast the game on Eagle 102.9 FM and via the internet at The radio show will begin 30 minutes before the 1 p.m. kickoff.

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