Dates to remember
• Aug. 16-A ribbon cutting will be held at 9 a.m. for the new football operations center. The Eagles will hold their final preseason scrimmage that day and fans can take a self-guided tour of the facility. Athletes on Georgia Southern University’s fall sports teams will sign schedule posters on the Paulson Stadium north concourse.
• Aug. 30-season opener at North Carolina State, 12:30 p.m.
• Sept. 6-home opener vs. Savannah State, 6 p.m.
Game tickets for Georgia Southern’s road games, including two in Atlanta at Georgia Tech and at Georgia State, are available for purchase to the general public. Contact the athletics ticket office at 1-800-GSU-WINS or stop by its temporary location on the second floor of the Bishop Field House weekdays from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
If the Georgia Southern Eagles wanted to, they could start a senior at each position on the offensive line.
The problem might have been that first-year head coach Willie Fritz is installing some new things on offense, and the biggest fundamental changes occur on the offensive line, which has shifted focus from man to zone blocking schemes.
Turns out, the previous staff under Jeff Monken had some of the same schemes in the shotgun and pistol, and it wasn’t nearly the adjustment the current coaches thought it would be.
“Looking back after spring ball, we could have done a lot more with those guys and put more on them than we did,” said offensive coordinator Doug Ruse, who came to GSU with Fritz from Sam Houston State. “We thought it was going to be a slow transition to the zone scheme, but they really picked up on it fast.”
The line is top-heavy with upper classmen. Of the 18 O-linemen on the roster, there are six seniors — Logan Daves, Garrett Frye, Raymond Klugey, Hunter Lamar, Trevor McBurnett and Manrey Saint-Amour — and four juniors — Darien Foreman, Maurice Hunt, Cole Peeples and Jeff Ward.
So much experience has made the transition go smoothly.
Between the five seniors, they have made 86 starts combined, with McBurnett and Saint-Amour each having started 23 games.
“We have a lot of guys who have played in a lot of games, and most of them have started,” McBurnett said. “Frye was an All-American last year. We’ve all lived together for years, we communicate, and all that stuff plays in. Having veterans up front is really helpful.”
Known for having smaller, quicker offensive linemen in its triple-option scheme, Georgia Southern isn’t without some bulk. Eight tip the scales at 300-plus pounds, and four of them are freshmen who likely will have the luxury of a redshirt season.
“We’ve got some good size and some mass in the guard positions,” Fritz said. “When you’re running a zone scheme you’ve got to have mass in there at guard and center, and I think it can be a position of strength.”
Georgia Southern linemen also have long been known for their aggression. While much of the fundamental attacking will become reacting in Fritz’s scheme, the mentality hasn’t changed.
“We’re not taking anything away from, you know, get up and try to whip somebody,” McBurnett said. “It’s still the same mentality. That’s how you play as an offensive lineman. Just because we’re not coming off the ball as fast as we can doesn’t mean we don’t have the same tenacity.”
“It’s more of a controlled aggression,” Saint-Amour added. “It’s a little bit of a change but not too bad.”
The thing GSU always has been most known for is running the football, and that won’t change, either.
“We’re still a run-heavy team,” Ruse said. “That’s coach Fritz’s belief, that’s the way he’s always done it, and it happens to be my belief too.”