State of the Nest

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Hayden Boudreaux

It has been almost a week since the Eagles lost to their long-time rival, Appalachian State. This came as no surprise to many fans who watched their team fall for the fourth time this season, giving them a .500 record.

Last week’s game was a lot of what we have seen all season. It was a group of amazing athletes and players making athletic plays to try and keep themselves in the game.

Linebacker Ukeme Eligwe scooped up a 90-yard fumble to score, a pair of interceptions including one that resulted in a drive that was stopped at the five-yard line. Quarterback Kevin Ellison scrambling all over the field to try and make plays late in the game, and many more efforts from players on both sides of the ball.

In the end, the Eagles allowed nearly 500 yards of offense from the Mountaineers while picking up only 159 themselves, with over 100 of those coming in the fourth quarter.

We have seen these displays of athleticism all year. A blocked field goal secured the win over UL Monroe. In our most recent win the Eagles blocked a punt, recovered four fumbles, and hit three field goals, all in service of a three-point win over one of the worst teams on our schedule. There are too many other examples to list, not to mention the constant displays by players like Favian Upshaw, who is using every shred of his athletic ability to make plays work. This is not a sustainable model moving forward and it is a problem that will only compound as we move further.

In the two nationally televised games the Eagles have played this season, both have ended in losses from conference opponents. Potential recruits look at players like running back Matt Breida, a Doak Walker nominee, who averaged 17 touchdowns on the ground the last two years, and now has only one rushing touchdown through eight games. They see a developing true freshman quarterback who had his redshirt pulled half-way through the season and has had tremendous weight put on his shoulders when it may not have been necessary.

Most of all, they see a 4-4 record with a chance of not even making a bowl game, along with the general disdain on social media regarding the leaders of the program.

There are four games left in the season. The next one is against Ole Miss that must win three of their next four games for bowl eligibility and will be looking for someone to bully after having a rough few weeks.The final game of the season is against Troy, who is having one of their best seasons in a quarter of a century and is a legitimate contender for the Sun Belt.

This leaves UL-Lafayette and Georgia State. Both teams have losing records and, for all intents and purposes, should never be able to keep up with Georgia Southern. In my opinion, this is how the rest of the season will turn out.

We will pick up wins over those two programs and be granted bowl eligibility. The athletic program will focus on that, almost to say that the fan outcry for changes all season was needless because we made it to a bowl game despite injuries and losses to good programs. To me, that is a disservice to these players that have fought tooth and nail to bring this program to where it is today.

It is important to stress that these players are some of the most talented that I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching in college football. I think it is a shame to watch these seniors, who have accomplished so much in their time as Eagles, have to take these losses week after week. I cannot to figure out why such a talented group of players who have seen so much success have had the year they’ve had thus far. I can only point to one area, coaching.

It is no small matter to label a coach or a group of coaches as the problem with a program. There are so many moving parts to put a team together that it seems almost unfair to point the blame at any one group. It is undeniable that many coaches struggle in their first year at the helm, even more at the helm of a new team.

However, the amount of skill and talent on this team is one that we will likely not see in Statesboro for a long time to come. We have already hurt our recruiting for next year and we will be losing a ton of talent over the next two off seasons. This all begs the question, if these coaches couldn’t dominate the Sun Belt with this team, can they do it with anyone?

Update: Tyson Summers announced that David Dean, co-offensive coordinator, will take over play-calling for the offense.  Rance Gillespie will continue to be QB coach.

Photo by Mick Miller.