Fall Practice Report - August 29
STATESBORO, Ga. Georgia Southern football went through a light workout on Wednesday afternoon, just under 90 minutes in helmets only. Head coach Chris Hatcher will have his Eagles practice the rest of this week and take Sunday off.
While the majority of college football teams kick off this week and weekend, the Eagles gain an additional week to prepare for the season-opener against West Georgia at 6 p.m. on September 8th inside Paulson Stadium.
Hatcher has stated throughout fall practice that what a starting line up might look like at the beginning of the week might not be the same at the end of the week and game time. That has made for strong competition battles, especially on defense.
Georgia Southern returns three starters in the defensive secondary from last year, however, according to secondary coach Keith Hatcher there is a solid nucleus of players all challenging for playing time.
“The best thing we have going for us right now in the secondary is we have a bunch of different guys that can contribute. Every day when they come out to practice they are having to competing for a job. There is a lot to be said to being insecure about whether or not you have a job,” said Keith Hatcher. “I think that is causing each of those guys to have to push each other. They don’t know who the starters are going be, they don’t know who is going to play the most. And they come out here every day with something to prove.”
Junior Brandon Jackson (Ft. Lauderdale, FL/Plantation) has received preseason All-America honors after hauling in a Southern Conference-leading five interceptions during his first season in the Eagles’ program. As a true-freshman, Carson Hill (Haddock/Baldwin County) played in all 11 games and started six times. Junior Dedrick Bynam (Columbus/Shaw) is a hard-hitting safety who ranks as the team’s top returning tackler with 45 stops.
“We’ve got 4-5 guys at each position, really it’s wide open. At corner you have the two guys who started last year in Brandon Jackson and Carson Hill but you’ve also got a couple of new guys who have performed really well in Henry Chubb (Waycross/Ware County) and Ronnie Wiggins (Summerville/Chattooga). They are all high caliber type players and all of them can push for a starting job. To be honest with you I don’t know who the starters will be versus West Georgia. One of those guys will have to step up and show they can do it,” said Hatcher. “At safety we are kind of in the same position. We’ve got four guys that can really go out and do it: (sophomore) Brandon Echols (Decatur/St. Pius) (and juniors) Bynam, Chris Rogers (Athens/Athens Academy) and Chris Covington (Lawrenceville/Brookwood). Three of those four guys have significant playing experience. It’s kind of the same boat we’re in at cornerback. They are out here pushing each other every day and whoever performs the best and practices will be the guy who goes out there on the first snap against West Georgia.”
The Eagles’ secondary coach understands how important competition is to make the team better.
“Competition brings out the best in everyone. Those guys are pushing each other to get better every day because they aren’t sure who is going to be the guy who gets the call. They’ll be working harder and getting better in practice. That’s what you need.”
At linebacker the Eagles must replace two departed seniors in Jason Earwood and All-America John Mohring. Sophomores Terrione Benefield (Conyers/Heritage) and David Lewis (Fairburn/Creekside) are the only returning linebackers with starting experience at Georgia Southern, seven and two games, respectively. However, key newcomers have stepped in to challenge for starting roles.
Senior Cory Clemons (Valdosta/Lowndes County) played at Western Kentucky before transferring to Georgia Southern last fall and then walked onto the team in the spring. He was listed as a starter on the preseason depth chart. In January freshman E.J. Webb (Roanoke, VA/Fleming) transferred from Fork Union Military prep and has four years of eligibility remaining.
Juniors Quentin Taylor (Apopka, FL/Apopka) and Dakota Walker (Mays Landing, N.J./Oakcrest) both have Southeastern Conference playing experience having seen action at Ole Miss and South Carolina, respectively. Linebackers coach (and defensive coordinator) Ashley Anders thinks the unit is improving with each practice.
“I think we’re getting better every day. That’s what we stress to those guys every day they cross that bridge... to try and get better in some aspect at their position. We’ve got some guys who are really pushing each other,” stated Anders. “David Lewis had a really good scrimmage on Saturday. He did some things really well and was productive. Dakota Walker did a really good job as did E.J. Webb. (At outside linebacker) The guy that has probably made the most progress and been more productive is Terrione Benefield.”
Like Hatcher, Anders knows strong individual competition will make the Eagles a much more successful team.
“Not doubt, the thing about competition is it not only makes you better as an individual player but it helps the team. You always keep the hunger there because everyone wants to be the starter. We like the battles we have going on right now.”
Kickoff on Saturday, September 8th is scheduled for 6 p.m. For ticket information call the Georgia Southern ticket office at (912) 681-0123 or 800-GSU-WINS.
FORMER ALL-AMERICAN RETURNS TO EAGLE CREEK: Former Georgia Southern Football All-American Fred Stokes attended practice Wednesday and spoke briefly to the team afterwards. Stokes, a 1986 First Team All-American, was a member of the Eagles' 1985 and 1986 National Championship teams.
The Vidalia native said it has been a long time since he stepped out on the practice fields.
“Believe it or not I have not actually been on this field I don’t think since 1986. I’ve been by and seen it of course but I haven’t stood here on what I would term holy ground’ near Beautiful Eagle Creek. I haven’t been here in many a years. It’s amazing and it’s exciting and it’s real humbling to know you were part of the beginning.”
Stokes, who recently spoke at the Third Annual YMCA of Coastal Georgia’s Teen Achievers Gala in Savannah, has been busy with business ventures and various speaking engagements. In fact he was part of a group that provided a cookout for the team after practice.
“Actually I’ve been doing a lot of speaking, a lot of traveling. I speak all over the world to different organizations, high schools, middle schools, different conferences and to our great military,” said Stokes. “And of course I’m doing a combination of things with Robins Smokehouse. I’ve got a label called Fred Stokes Foods and we’re putting that on some of their breakfast sausage and possibly some of their hot dogs. They’ve been a mainstay in this community for a long time. They changed hands here recently but still offer the same quality foods.”
Stokes played 10 seasons in the National Football League from 1987-1996 including stints with the Los Angeles Rams, Washington Redskins, Saint Louis Rams and New Orleans Saints. Stokes led the Redskins to a Super Bowl XXVI Championship in 1991.
- Category: Football
- Published on Wednesday, 29 August 2007 00:25