In a down year in 2016, Georgia Southern was able to hang with Ole Miss for most of the first half and ultimately limit the defeat to 10 points, 37-27.
Now, head coach Tyson Summers returns for his second season with a new offensive coordinator and a team hungry to run the football.
The Eagles will play to win this Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m brushing my teeth or playing cards or coaching a football game, I’m going to be as competitive as I can possibly be,” Summers said. “Our football team takes the same mindset. We’re not going into this game to do anything but to win.”
The other new QB
Redshirt freshman Shai Werts has the daunting task of playing his first college game as the newly minted starting quarterback against a talented and deep Auburn defense.
But the dual-threat Werts didn’t seem fazed in a press conference on Monday.
“People want to build the SEC up so much. That’s not what we’re going to do. They put their pants on just how we put our pants on,” Werts said.
Werts has the support of a veteran offensive line, bolstered by the return of left tackle Tommy Boynton, who missed all of last season after suffering two concussions in spring practice.
“That’s one of the groups and positions that has had the most drastic improvement,” Summers said of the offensive line.
Keeping it on the ground
Most fans of Georgia Southern football expect a return to a run-dominated offense akin to the option that has featured Eagle greats such as Jayson Foster, Adrian Peterson, and Jerick McKinnon in the past.
Last season’s 5-7 record is being blamed partially on the retreat from the classic option offense that has become famous in Statesboro. New offensive coordinator Bryan Cook was previously the quarterbacks coach at Georgia Tech, which is also known for an option running attack.
Look for junior back Wesley Fields to see a bulk of the action, as well as senior L.A. Ramsby.
Fields acknowledged the task at hand, but was confident in his offensive line.
“SEC defenses are physical, big, and kind of shifty," Fields said. "We just have to come hit ‘em in the mouth."
Young but capable
After losing seniors Ironhead Gallon and Ukeme Eligwe to the NFL, the Eagles will reload their defense around junior safety Josh Moon, who was third on the team in tackles last season.
Moon gave his insight on the best way to try to slow down the fast-paced Auburn offense.
“We’ve got to hit them hard early, get them off the field so they don’t have the opportunity to tire us out,” Moon said.
Highly-touted junior college transfer linebacker Tomarcio Reese will start in his first game as an Eagle, and junior defensive tackle Logan Hunt will try to clog the middle and minimize running lanes for Kamryn Pettway and company.
Story contributed by Thomas Jilk, Sports Editor.