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Eagles receivers catch on to a new role as leaders
04.06 gsu wrs
Michael McIntosh, here snaring a pass against Western Carolina, was third on the team in receptions last year, and the Eagles may be bringing back their top six receivers from 2007. - photo by File photo

Georgia Southern wide receivers coach Ron Dugans isn’t one to be complacent.

“If you make a great play, the next play I want you to make an even better play,” he tells his corps everyday at Beautiful Eagle Creek.

Dugans is toiling this spring to fine tune GSU’s deepest and most experienced offensive group that’ll be counted on more than ever this fall. As the post-Jayson Foster era begins, second-year coach Chris Hatcher is morphing the Eagle offense into a passing-style attack, similar to the one he had so much success with at Valdosta State.

“We plan on throwing the ball a lot and those guys have got to step up and make plays,” Hatcher said. “Tim Camp’s really been playing good here lately, and those guys are going to have to be playmakers for us if we are going to be successful offensively. That’s what we are going to hang our hat on — throwing the football.”

The unit is anchored by seniors Raja Andrews, Michael McIntosh, Camp, Joe Haynie, and Irving Campbell, who has applied for a sixth year of eligibility. If Campbell’s wish is granted, the Eagles return their entire receiving unit, which is looking forward to its increased role.

“That’s something we love to hear,” said Andrews, who led the team with 38 catches for 388 yards and three touchdowns last season. “As a receiver, it’s hard to be playing a team sport and not be selfish when you hear that we’re going to be throwing the ball. We come out here and have a big grin on our face every single day just because we know the ball is going to be coming to us and everybody is going to be depending on us to make great plays.”

McIntosh, who transferred from Florida prior to the 2006 season, agrees.

“We want to be looked (to),” he said. “We’re the playmakers of the offense. We have senior leadership. I feel like we’ve got the potential to make the plays, and we are going to make them.”

The receivers have already noticed they’re being counted on, particularly when the offense gets in a rut during 11-on-11s and everyone looks to them for a momentum boost.

“We’ve pretty much accepted that’s going to be our role this year,” Andrews said. “I think we’ve got the guys to step up and answer that challenge.”

Georgia Southern’s top two quarterbacks say they feel good about the veteran group, which includes juniors Garryon Taylor and Chris Ashkouti and sophomore Steve Cundari.

“I love it — it’s definitely a junior and senior-laden group of receivers, which is great to have,” quarterback Lee Chapple said. “They’ve played a bunch of ballgames, so they definitely have confidence in their abilities. If you can get the ball out to them, with the group of receivers we’ve got, they can make plays for you.”

Quarterback Kyle Collins feels the receivers are the definitely the leaders of the offense right now.

“We kind of go to them, and we’ve got so much depth at receiver, so that’s really helping us out right now,” he said. “We’ve got some good guys.”

With several veterans and a number of promising younger players vying for time, the receivers have to be sure not to slack off during practice.

“You never can just sit back one day and just be average,” Andrews said. “With the experience and talent in this group, anything is possible. Any guy can shine any day, so you just have to come out here, give your all and just make plays.”

Dugans has been encouraged by the group but said there’s still a lot of room for improvement. He’d like to see his players improve on their consistency, downfield blocking and catching.

“Every day we are trying to come out here and get better,” he said. “If we don’t get better, we are wasting a day of practice. The main thing you want to do at receiver is be dependable. Because on third down, we may have to throw the ball and we need to know that you are going to be where you need to be and where the quarterback expects you to be. We want you to be there, and that’s developing dependability out here on the practice fields.”

Dugans, a former Florida State receiver who spent five seasons in the NFL, also encourages his players to develop a swagger.

“You’ve got to develop an attitude when you are playing at Georgia Southern because of the tradition,” he said. “That tradition itself has an attitude, and that’s what we want to keep going along.”
Practice update, improvement continues
Hatcher was encouraged by Tuesday’s workout, calling it the best he’s seen this spring.

“As far as a competitive standpoint, our hustle and the little things we’ve been missing — I thought it all came together today,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll build off that, but up until this point, that was by far our best overall practice in every phase of the game.”