PREVIEW: Eagle defense looks to shut down South Alabama on the road

Ryan Kostensky

The Georgia Southern football team is looking to bounce back with a strong defensive performance against conference foe South Alabama on Thursday night.

Georgia Southern (1-3, 0-1)

The Georgia Southern football team travels to South Alabama for a matchup against the Jaguars and will rely heavily on the defense in order to get their first conference win of the season.

Through the first four games, the GS defense has allowed 36.3 points per game, including the 26-18 victory against FCS Maine, the lone win of the season. The Eagles appear to suffer more in pass-defense situations rather than run situations, giving up a total of 1,111 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air while only allowing 542 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.

While the numbers look high, the defensive backfield hasn’t struggled as much as the numbers suggest. Senior defensive backs Monquavion Brinson and Kindle Vildor get the most attention at their position, but the Eagles have gotten good contributions from others, including redshirt sophomore safety Kenderick Duncan Jr., who has recorded the team’s only two interceptions on the season.

The defensive line and linebacking core have been the big contributors for GS and will look to feast on a South Alabama team that has struggled at times. Redshirt junior inside linebacker Rashad Byrd, has four and a half tackles for loss and one big sack against Minnesota that ultimately resulted in a touchdown. Redshirt freshman outside linebacker Quin Williams leads all Eagles in sacks, with two. If GS wants to continue their dominance over the Jaguars, they will have to rely heavily on the big men up front.

South Alabama (1-4, 0-1)

On paper, the Jaguars look to have a better defense, allowing an average of 31.2 points per game, but what isn’t taken into account is the opponents faced. USA surrendered at least 30 points in their four losses against the likes of Nebraska, Memphis, UAB and Louisiana-Monroe, and face a tough task against the Eagles on Thursday.

Much like the case for GS, South Alabama’s defense relies on the pressure that comes up front. As a team, the Jaguars have seven sacks with senior defensive lineman Rocel McWilliams leading the way with two. McWilliams is also second on the team with four tackles for loss and is a force to recon with for USA.

In pass defense, the Jaguars’ struggle is similar to that of what the Eagles have faced. South Alabama has allowed 1118 yards through the air with one more game in hand than GS, pulling down five interceptions in the process. Sophomore linebacker A.J. DeShazor has one of the team’s interception, as well as one pass breakup and one quarterback hit. If the Eagles want to continue their stretch of dominance over the Jaguars, look for the pass to be more prevalent than in the past.

GS and South Alabama get underway in their midweek bout on Thursday. Kickoff from Ladd-Peebles Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m.

Ryan Kostensky, The George-Anne Sports Reporter, [email protected]