Georgia State will take the field at the Georgia Dome for the first time under new head coach Trent Miles on Saturday for their annual blue and white game. The scrimmage will conclude the 15 practices of spring football camp as the Panthers prepare for their first season in the Sun Belt and at the FBS level. Here's are key points Panther fans should keep an eye on tomorrow in the dome.
1. The Play of the Quarterbacks
The biggest storyline throughout camp, and for that matter for most of Georgia State's football history, has been the play of their quarterbacks. In their three seasons Georgia State has played six different quarterbacks, with Drew Little having the most success in year one. Last season, Ben McLane started the majority of the games, but was only ever above average at his best.
This spring the Panthers added JUCO signee Clay Chastain, and most assumed the job would be his to lose. However, Chastain has struggled throughout the majority of camp and in two open scrimmages had very poor statistical showings. Ben McLane, meanwhile, has looked consistently solid, yet never spectacular.
In the signal callers defense, they have been performing without three key offensive lineman and their two leading receivers. Ulrick John, Harrison Clottey, Mark Ruskell, Albert Wilson, and Danny Williams have all been limited for the majority of camp and none will be available for tomorrow's spring game.
However, this is a trend that Panther fans have grown tired of hearing. Highly touted newcomer (i.e. Star Jackson, Ronnie Bell, and now Clay Chastain) that for whatever reason hasn't quite lived up to the billing. It is way too early to have written of Chastain, but his struggles have indicated that Georgia State's quarterback issues are far from being solved.
2. Who will separate themselves amongst the running backs?
The Panthers lost the heart and soul of their team last season when running back Donald Russell went down with a knee injury. Probably the most productive player in Georgia States history, the all-conference running back will be difficult to replace. In December we ran an evaluation of the current roster and made the claims that none of the running backs currently on the roster had shown they were capable of being a productive FBS running back. Even with the addition of JUCO signee Gerald Howse, that is still the case. Travis Evans runs the hardest and Rendell Wilder has the most home run type speed, but none of them have been consistently impressive.
Howse is a physical specimen at 6'1 and is a solid 215 pounds. But he runs very up right and doesn't have the lateral quickness that made Russell so effective. Again, give the backs a little slack for running behind an undermanned offensive line, but their production has to improve.
3. How much will the defensive line dominate?
The defensive line is far and away the most talented group on the team. UMASS transfer Theo Agnew has been dominant throughout camp and has taken on a leadership role. Kentucky transfer Nermin Delic has also been impressive. Terrance Woodard has been great against the run, but needs to continue to work on his passing pressure. Last year's freshman standout Joe Lockley has been slowed by injury, but will play Saturday.
But while the Georgia State has had some talented players in the front four on defense, including their first draft pick Christo Bilukidi, they haven't had much depth. That is no longer the case as JUCO signee George Rogers, redshirt freshman Tanner Strickland, and sophomore Melvin King have also been productive throughout camp.
This group has the chance to be something special, and I expect a glimpse of that on Saturday.
4. How much of the offensive scheme will be in place?
It will be interesting to see how creative new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski gets on Saturday. How many different sets will we see? Will we see a lot of blocking backs or h-back sets? How involved will the tight ends be? These are all questions that I will be interested in finding answers to.
Jagz has been pleased with the development of the playbook, but has not been pleased at all with the execution to this point. Granted 15 practices aren't a lot, but he expects a lot of his team. The offense has struggled also in the scrimmages with getting off to a good start and Jagz has challenged them to do better this Saturday.
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