PREVIEW: Eagles to host Chanticleers after extended bye week

Kaitlin Sells

The Georgia Southern football team will be back to host Coastal Carolina after 16 days of sitting idle.

The Eagles have seen a rocky start, sitting at a 2-3 overall record and a 1-1 conference record after collecting their first conference win over South Alabama. While it was a win, it was still an ugly game where the Jaguars took GS into double overtime and the Eagles just nearly claimed the win.

Redshirt-junior quarterback Shai Werts has been back for two full games since injury at LSU, but he’s still finding difficulty of getting back into the groove of things. The redshirt-junior claimed his first win of the season over USA, but his performance was less than impressive. Werts nearly threw four interceptions and only completed nine passed on 17 attempts for 78 yards against the Jaguars, but did rush for just over 100 yards.

The USA win was also junior running back Wesley Kennedy’s first victory of the season as it was his first game back after serving his four-game academic suspension. Kennedy proved he’s a difference maker on the field that the GS offense has been lacking these first four games of the season as the junior rushed for 52 yards on the night as well as scoring the touchdown that put the Eagles in position to take the game into overtime. With redshirt-sophomore running back Logan Wright out for 4-6 weeks with neck injuries, it can be expected to see more action from Kennedy and junior transfer JD King in these upcoming games for the Eagles.

“Losing Logan Wright, that hurts,” Head Coach Chad Lunsford regarding Wright’s status. “As a leader, that guy has put in a lot of time for us… I think JD King is a guy that can step up and really fill that role.”

The defensive side of the ball seems to be more of a strength for the Eagles, logging 318 tackles on the season as a team, led by captain linebacker Rashad Byrd. The junior alone has 38 tackles on the season as well as a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.  

Junior defensive end Raymond Johnson III has also stepped up for the Eagle defense, as he played a key role in the victory over USA. He blocked a field goal in the first stretch of overtime and recovered a fumble in the second overtime, setting up redshirt-senior kicker Tyler Bass for his game-winning field goal. Johnson has notched a total of 20 tackles on the season with three of those being tackles for loss.

As far as injuries go for the GS, big starter Monquavion Brinson is still questionable, but redshirt-senior center Jakob Cooper has been medically disqualified from the team due to too many concussions. Cooper started all games this season until injury against UL, where he received a concussion. Senior cornerback Brinson went down in the fourth quarter of play against USA and had to be carried off the field with a leg injury. He has been ruled as day-to-day. 

“Unfortunately, Jacob Cooper has been medically disqualified,” Lunsford said concerning the redshirt-senior’s injuries. “He had a concussion and you know, it’s just something that he was not going to be able to continue to play. So he will no longer be with us. He is going to help as a student coach for us. We will definitely miss him.”

The Chanticleers sit at an even overall record of 3-3 but sit on a two-game losing streak as they’ve struggled to find victory in conference play.

CCU is 0-2 in the conference, collecting losses against Appalachian State and Georgia State. While their record reflects an average team, the Chanticleers are still averaging 206 rushing yards per game and 217 passing yards per game- more than GS.

Leading the CCU offensive in the quarterback position is sophomore Fred Payton with 131 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns on the season. Payton has also thrown for six touchdowns and an overall of 1,009 yards in the six games he’s played this season, averaging 168.2 yards per game. His strength in his passing game could be an obstacle for the Eagle defense has they’ve historically struggled defending against a passing offense.

Rushing-wise, junior running back CJ Marable is leading the Chanticleers with 508 rushing yards on the season, averaging 84.67 yards per game. Marble poses as a major threat to the Eagle defense, rushing for five touchdowns so far on the season as well as catching for three more.

“[Marable] is definitely a guy that we’ve got to make sure that we’re ready for and ready to stop,” Lunsford said. “Definitely a lot of respect for Coastal Carolina as we go into this game.”

The Chanticleer defense has also looked strong so far this season, as they’ve forced two fumbles, one fumble recovery, and seven interceptions as a team. Leading is junior linebacker Teddy Gallagher with 50 total tackles on the season including three tackles for a loss of 13 yards.

This game will not be an easy match up for the Eagles as the Chanticleers are hungry to break their two-game losing streak with their first conference win.

GS is set to host Coastal Carolina on Saturday with kickoff slated for 3 p.m.

Kaitlin Sells, The George-Anne Managing Sports Editor, [email protected]