Springtime signifies change.
Over the last half-decade, the Georgia Southern Eagles have taken that literally — new coaching staffs, new schemes and new players — so it was a refreshing change to see familiar coaches and players as spring camp got underway Monday on the banks of Beautiful Eagle Creek.
There was only one new face that stood out.
Jack Curtis went through his first full practice session at GSU after replacing defensive coordinator Brent Pry, who left after the 2010 season for Vanderbilt.
Even that change hasn’t been a drastic one, as Curtis will continue to run the 4-3 look Pry installed upon arrival in spring of 2010.
“I think it’s really been an easy transition for our staff and for our players because his defensive philosophy mirrors so much of what we did a year ago,” GSU head coach Jeff Monken said. “He and coach Pry worked together at Memphis for a year and knew each other well.”
Curtis broke the ice with the Georgia Southern defense right off the bat.
“We actually had a little joking session,” defensive lineman Roderick Tinsley said. “He told a couple of jokes, we laughed — it was kind of like breaking the air. He was new, and he told us a little about himself. We’re just glad he’s here and ready to work.
“With a new coach comes a new defense, but he didn’t change the defense, so that was great. All of the guys rallied around and were happy, so we’re just out here trying to play ball.”
Curtis, who coached last season at Central Missouri and was a part of an 11-win season and a Division II playoff run, hasn’t seen an option offense like GSU’s in about a decade but is excited about what it does for his defense.
“One thing you’re going to do is play with a low pad level and play square,” Curtis said about practicing against the run-based offense. “Those things never change in football. It makes you tough. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. If you play high against an option team, you’re going to get knocked off the ball, so it forces you to play low. I think you give up a little bit with some scheme stuff, but you gain a lot with toughness and learning how to play the game.”
Out for the count
Several Eagles are recovering from off-season injuries.
Quarterback Jaybo Shaw recently had surgery in recovery from a groin injury. He is able to practice with the team and saw limited action Monday.
Also banged up are Brent Russell, Laron Scott, Darius Eubanks, Josh Rowe, K.R. Snipes, Chris Gray and Dion DuBose, who still is recovering from a knee injury sustained at Western Carolina in 2010. All will miss spring camp. Ryan Byrne is taking a medical leave of absence in the spring, and Blake Riley may be able to practice as spring camp continues.
Cleared to practice after injuries in 2010 are Nico Hickey, Christian Jordan, Deion Stanley and Johnathan Bryant, who broke his leg in the 2010 season opener against Savannah State and will rejoin the Eagles for practice.
Many Eagles still are recovering from the 15-game season due to a run to the semifinals of the 2010 Football Championship Sunbdivision playoffs.
“I’ll take the tradeoff,” Monken said. “I’d much rather be playing late in December and have some guys banged up for spring ball.”
The extended season also gave the team an extra month of practice time.
“We got four extra weeks of practice, and that’s a definite advantage,” Monken said. “I thought we were continuing to improve as a football team all the way through the playoffs. That was definitely beneficial.”
According to a GSU news release, Jared Flowers, Brett Layson and Alex Bradford will graduate early and forego their final year of eligibility. Two former players will assist with other team-related functions. Bryant Meeks will assist the strength and conditioning staff, and Garrett Smith will assist as an undergraduate student coach. Will Banks, Lamar Brown, Wilson Brown, Hunter Gay, Lester Green, Brandon Nolley, Nelson Olofindayo, Darries Robinson, Zeke Rozier, Hanson Sachs, Wynn Stinespring, Jamichael Tatum and Justin Wilson no longer are with the team. Martez Eastland and Zach Rekkers have been suspended from the team until further notice.
The Eagles return to the practice field at 3:45 p.m. today.
Matt Yogus can be reached at 912-489-9408.