Eagles enter spring camp with new coaching staff

Robert George

The Georgia Southern football team is returning to the gridiron for the first time since their 58-27 win over Bowling Green in the GoDaddy Bowl on Dec. 23 2015.

Spring practice officially kicks off this afternoon and it will be the first time newly appointed head coach Tyson Summers and his staff will be on the field with the team.

He and the rest of the staff have been playing catch up this offseason with both recruiting future players and getting to know the returning players. Summers said everyone is ready to get back on the field and get to work.

“It’s what we’ve been looking forward to for the last couple months,” Summers said. “When we come out of spring, we want to know who the guys that we can trust are. We are certainly looking for leadership in everything that we’re doing and we’re trying to build character and build toughness.”

The Eagles have an almost entirely new coaching staff for the 2016 season. Three of the big new hires are Co-Offensive Coordinators David Dean and Rance Gillespie and Defensive Coordinator Lorenzo Costantini.

Costantini comes from UCF, where he helped coach defense with Summers from 2013-2014. While he has mostly coached the defensive line throughout his career, he said he will be heavily involved in all aspects of the defense at GSU.

“My defensive philosophy: be physical, be fast and be sudden,” Costantini said. “And that’s how we’re going to play and that’s what I expect out of these kids and I expect the game to have a little more feel of physical toughness up front.”

One word Costantini mentioned multiple times was “fun.” He stressed how football is a game and that you should be having fun. He and the rest of the defensive will look to bring that energy and fun to the practice fields in the spring.

“Coming into an office every day and sitting under these lights is no fun – this is not being a coach,” Costantini said. “Football is fun and when you come out to practice I want it to be that way. I like seeing people pop each other around the field; I like people jumping and running; The energy – that’s football – that’s the way we like it and I know offensive coaches look at me and think I’m off the wall but I like that kind of stuff. That’s what I’m looking for.”

Both Dean and Gillespie came from Valdosta. Dean has been the head coach at Valdosta State University, where he won two national championships since he took over in 2007. He will be involved heavily with the wide receivers and will look to help bolster the passing game.

“We’re going to continue to run the football, but yes, I think they’re excited about some of the things that maybe we’re going to install and put in and give these guys an opportunity to be more of a factor in the offensive game plan,” Dean said.

Gillespie was the offensive coordinator at GSU from 2007-2009 under Chris Hatcher. He then spent five years at Valdosta High School as the head coach and athletic director. Valdosta High and VSU share the same stadium, meaning he and Coach Dean have held a professional relationship for the last few years.

“David and I have known each other for probably 15, 20 years, so a long time,” Gillespie said. “We’ve coached camps together and had interaction with one another throughout the profession so I look forward to working with David, this is our first time working together, but I’ve known David practically my entire career.”

Gillespie will coach the quarterbacks and is looking to help improve on their fundamentals. Much of that will come from drills and workouts that he will implement in spring practice.

“There are some areas for growth and that starts with base fundamentals,” Gillespie said. “That’s why I’m here, to help them improve fundamentally and I feel like we got some things that can help them on a baseline schedule. “

Today’s practice will be the first of 15 sessions over the next month. The team will play in the spring game on April 16 at Statesboro High School, as Paulson Stadium is still under renovations to install turf.

Check back over the next few weeks for more updates and storylines coming from spring camp.