People keep asking me what Georgia Southern will accomplish on the football field in 2014.
I keep refusing to make any predictions. There are just way too many unknown factors with the season still more than seven months away, including:
• Head coach Willie Fritz’s coaching staff at each position.
• The outlook of the entirety of GSU’s 2014 recruiting class.
• Who will play key positions, including every position in a completely new offensive system.
There also are some areas where I can’t comment, because I’ve been tied up covering Georgia Southern on Saturdays:
• What does the Sun Belt look like? Who’s got key players returning, how will the rest of the teams going through a coaching change adjust, and how do the Eagles match up with the eight Sun Belt programs on the schedule?
All those questions will be answered soon enough. Until then, here are some things that definitely need to happen before toe meets football next season.
The biggest focus will be on the offensive line. When GSU used to run the football successfully, it was in large part because of an offensive line that was playing at a high level. It’ll still have to play at a high level, but it’s going to have to learn a whole new method of doing things.
There’s a big difference between blowing people off the ball (how the linemen used to do things) and pushing people around (how they’ll be taught to do things).
That may be an oversimplification, but we’ll put it this way — teams like Auburn, Oregon, Baylor and, yes, Sam Houston State ran the ball successfully last season when their offensive linemen picked up the right man and pushed him around.
Georgia Southern’s offensive line will look more like the above-mentioned teams when it’s blocking next season and less like a bowling ball striking pins.
Next, Georgia Southern has to name a starting quarterback.
Some coaches like to wait until opening kickoff to name a quarterback; there are advantages to that, but consistency is important during a transition, wherever you can get it. When Jaybo Shaw transferred to GSU in 2010, there was no doubt that the offense was his.
Kevin Ellison was the likely starter before Jeff Monken left, because Ellison developed into quite the option quarterback as a freshman last season. But a new staff and philosophy opens the door to competition among Ellison, Alfred Ramsby, Favian Upshaw, Vegas Harley, potentially Ezayi Youyoute, depending on his health, and maybe others, depending on off-season additions.
Defense has some homework, too.
The two biggest weaknesses last season were a lack of turnovers and an inconsistent pass rush.
The Statesboro Herald’s Josh Aubrey reported that Jack Curtis will stay as defensive coordinator. Fritz has said he’ll implement a 4-2-5 defense.
Both of those speak to the aforementioned consistency, so that’s good. The linebackers, the defense’s strength last season, provide a good set of building blocks for the 2014 defense.
But the two biggest weaknesses from a year ago are the biggest necessities next year if the Eagles are going to be able to slow the high-powered offenses in the Sun Belt.
As for predictions, I’ll let you know after GSU plays N.C. State.