Eagles kick off fall camp in Paulson

Todd Bradley (11) was a vocal leader for the defense Friday. 

McClain Baxley

Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Mitch Matthews Jr. rushed onto the field at Paulson Stadium Friday morning and let out a barbaric “woo football” to mark the beginning of Georgia Southern’s first fall football practice.

Though the practice had been pushed up 30 minutes and relocated from Eagle Creek to Paulson, the energy from the Eagles was contagious. All 110 players sprinted with emphatic purpose all over the field.

“When the guys came in last night very excited, I think there was some nerves and maybe some jitters with our team,” head coach Chad Lunsford said. “They understand the expectation, they understand what we’re trying to get done, but I think there was just some nervousness out there today of not wanting to make a mistake.”

This skittish behavior wasn’t apparent the whole time, but from the younger guys not wanting to fail, it was there. And in the way you had players timid, you had players ambitious and ready to attack.

One of the surprisingly aggressive and skilled players was redshirt junior wide receiver Colby Ransom. Matched up against redshirt sophomore safety Amari Thompson most of the morning, Ransom did a great job of creating space on routes and caught several balls that, to most, would have been uncatchable. There are no MVPs on the first day of practice, but Ransom’s raw athleticism made him a star to watch.

On the defensive side, redshirt sophomore inside linebacker Todd Bradley was silent but deadly. His morning was highlighted by a crazy one-handed interception that he made look easy. Lunsford also enjoyed Bradley’s ability to step up as a vocal leader.

“Todd Bradley is kind of a quiet dude, but he holds guys accountable,” Lunsford said. “It’s all about his work ethic and demeanor.”

The defense’s work ethic and willingness to grow and learn from new defensive coordinator Scot Sloan was great to see. The line did not back down and the secondary stood strong.

The biggest and most noticeable positive takeaway from the first day wasn’t Wes Kennedy’s speed or the dedication to the buy-in from the team, but it was the night and day improvement from redshirt sophomore quarterback Shai Werts wearing a gold practice jersey, which he called “swagged up.”

{{tncms-inline account=”Captain” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Fall practice has begun. Quarterbacks going with gold jerseys as oppose to the classic red practice jerseys. <a href="https://t.co/vaVi31jY8s">pic.twitter.com/vaVi31jY8s</a></p>— Captain (@McclainBaxley) <a href="https://twitter.com/McclainBaxley/status/1025348193612189697?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 3, 2018</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/McclainBaxley/status/1025348193612189697″ type=”twitter”}}

In his arm, in his running of the option and in his composure in the pocket, Werts was the alpha of the offense.

“I had some mechanical things to fix, but it was more about getting mentally tough,” Werts said.

His comfortability and confidence in the backfield and through all the drills was something that Eagle Nation would love to see. After being thrown into the fire last season, Werts has had a full year to improve all aspects of the game. And he has certainly taken advantage of the offseason. Even Lunsford was impressed.

“(Shai) looked a lot more comfortable out there. I felt like he was running the show,” Lunsford said. “I noticed an air of confidence about him.”

As a whole, the Eagles have put last season behind them and new expectations have been set by both the coaching staff and the players.

“I don’t know how this season is gonna go,” Lunsford said with an abnormally serious tone. “I know what we want to happen, what we’re working to get done, but [this team] better be the one to set the tone that the last couple seasons at Georgia Southern is not acceptable.”

 

McClain Baxley, The George-Anne Sports Editor, [email protected]