GS 2016 Offensive Preview

Robert George

The first game of the 2016 college football season is still a few weeks away, but it’s never too early to start looking ahead for what to expect from the season. Over the next few issues leading up to Georgia Southern’s (GS) opening matchup against Savannah State University on September 3, we’ll help you get familiar with key players, storylines, schemes and opponents that will headline the first season of a new era for GS football. Today, we’re previewing the offense by each position to get a feel for what to expect.

All stats compiled from ESPN, NCAA and GS Athletics databases.

What type of offense will the Eagles run?

This was one of the first questions on Eagle Nation’s mind when Tyson Summers was announced as the head coach back in December. The Eagles have ran the option-offense for ages it seems, and that side of the ball has largely regressed when they wandered away from it, i.e. the “Hatch Attack” from Chris Hatcher’s days during the 2007-2009 seasons.

Summers was quick to reassure the fans that they wouldn’t make any major changes to the scheme, meaning we can expect to see more of the gun-option attack the Eagles have ran in the past few seasons. What could, and needs to, change is how frequently and efficiently they throw the ball this season.

While every coach with an option-offense says they want to throw the ball more, Summers is actually making an effort to do so. He brought in two new offensive coordinators, one from Valdosta High School and the other from Valdosta State, both of whose teams threw the ball a lot. 

“If you’re gonna be a team that can throw at all, you gotta work it,” Summers said.

Quarterback

There’s an old saying in football that if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t really have one. While this is mostly true and applies to a lot of college football teams, it couldn’t be farther from the truth for the Eagles.

Seniors Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw will once again split reps under center. Summers has said that both guys will see playing time and both have earned it. While both guys have their respective strengths and weaknesses, but both have shown that they’re capable of taking over games with their legs and their arms. 

It will probably take a few games to see how evenly the reps get divided up between the two, but we know that both are capable of leading an offense to the end zone.

Running back

This is undoubtedly the Eagles most stacked position on the team. Everyone knows about Matt Breida at this point. The senior was put on the Doak Walker Watch List, which is given annually to the nation’s top running back. He’ll spearhead a three-headed monster that includes junior L.A. Ramsby and sophomore Wesley Fields.

While Breida is the home-run hitter with his elite speed and agility in the open field, Ramsby is excellent between the tackles and can pick up the tough yards when they’re near the goal line. He’s also pretty versatile, evidenced by the fact that he switched to running back after being recruited to GS as a quarterback.

If Ramsby is the thunder and Breida is lightning, then Fields is like a perfect Statesboro thunderstorm. Fields has great speed and a knack for finding the end zone once the offense gets close. He averaged almost seven yards a carry last season, and was also useful out of the backfield as a receiver. He was the only back to catch a touchdown pass and have more than 100 receiving yards last season.

“L.A. knows so much about the offense and different schemes. And Wesley was a freshman last year, and his ability to just come in and just want to know everything me and L.A. knew and listen and be coachable was great. I feel like they have a chance to play in the NFL one day,” Breida said.

These guys should put up great numbers this season with two veteran quarterbacks running the offense and an excellent offensive line, especially if the passing game opens up enough to keep defenses from stacking the box.

Wide Receivers

This group is probably the most excited about the greater emphasis on the passing game this offseason. Last season, the team attempted only 137 passes, the fewest by any team in the FBS. The expectation is that that number will rise and these guys will be the primary beneficiaries.

BJ Johnson III returns as the No. 1 receiver for the second consecutive season. He hauled in 249 yards in nine games. He injured his shoulder at one point and it left him sidelined for a portion of the season. However, this year, he will once again assume the role of the leader at that position.

“I just come out here and do my job every day to the best of my abilities and set the tone and lead by example,” Johnson III said.

Myles Campbell will also be back in his junior season. He finished with 130 receiving yards last year, second most on the team. At 5’6”, Campbell has looked good in the preseason, and should establish himself as a playmaker in the passing game.

Mike Summers Jr. will make his homecoming against SSU. The Statesboro native transferred in from Georgia Tech this offseason, and will look to make an immediate impact on the outside.

Keigan Williams, Malik Henry and Montay Crockett all caught passes last season and will be back again this year. Incoming freshman and four-star recruit Darion Anderson will also look to get on the field.

“It’s there. We’ve been waiting for this opportunity, for the coaches to give us an opportunity to show what we can do. We’ve been building that chemistry (with the quarterbacks), now it’s time for us to go show it on Saturdays,” Johnson III said.

Tight End

This position could be a bit of an enigma for GS. Typically in an option-offense, the TE is a key blocker, and that was the case last season for the Eagles. Primary TE’s James Dean and Jeff Ward caught just one pass combined, and they’ve since graduated. With the greater emphasis this offseason on passing, however, that could change.

There are only two non-freshman or redshirt freshman listed at that position on the roster this season. One of those is a transfer and the other is a converted linebacker. 

Malik Broughton is a 6’4” track star from Albany State and later Arkansas. He has elite jumping ability and is fast in the open field. He could make an impact when the Eagles look to stretch the middle of the field in the passing game.

Offensive Line

Every offense begins and ends with the play of its line, and this is especially true for the Eagles. Andy Kwon, Jeremiah Culbreth and Tommy Boynton return after starting at least 11 games last season. Kwon and Culbreth are locked in the lineup, but Boynton is dealing with a concussion and it’s unclear how long he’ll be out. The Eagles also have to fill the gaps left open after Darien Foreman and Roscoe Byrd graduated.

There are other guys capable of stepping in, however. Max Magana and Ryan Northrup both started multiple times last season and figure to battle for spots. Curtis Rainey also saw game action last season and looks to get some work as well.

Whoever ends up starting will benefit from having Kwon at center. The senior was Second Team All-Sun Belt last season and was named to the Rimington Watch List this season, which is given to the best center in the nation. He knows the importance of his unit’s job, and is confident that they’ll open holes for the runners this season.

“My job is to be able to block people and move them out of the way so that they can go on and score,” Kwon said. “Those are my brothers and I have to take care of them.”

Check back on Thursday for a breakdown of the defensive side of the ball.