August 09, 2016
Last week, we started previewing the 2016 edition of the Georgia Southern Eagles by looking at what the coaching staff led by rookie head coach Tyson Summers will bring to the table. This week, we’ll turn to the offense.
Everything on the offense starts with the quarterback position, so we’ll start there too. Once again, we’ll enter the season with seniors Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw battling for the job. Ellison has held the starting role for the majority of the last three seasons, but it was Upshaw who finished last season strong with solid performances in the last few regular season games and capped it off with a career performance in the GoDaddy Bowl against Bowling Green.
Neither guy has been named starter at this point for the 2016 season, and I have a feeling they will both see plenty of playing time early on. Having two experienced and talented senior quarterbacks — who are both fully capable of leading the offense to some big time numbers — is not a bad problem to have. Much like last year, I think the coaching staff will likely go with the guy with the hot hand at the time. If the offense sputters a bit, change it up and bring in the other. I’m perfectly comfortable with either one of these guys running the offense, so the quarterback position is not a concern for me.
The quarterback may be the field general, but the success of the offense is really determined up front with the offensive line. Senior center Andy Kwon is a first-team, preseason, all-conference selection and will lead the battle in the trenches. Jeremiah Culbreth, who started the last 11 games last season at left tackle as a true freshman, will return for his sophomore campaign. Junior Tommy Boynton started all 13 games at right tackle last season.
As a whole, the rest of this group is pretty young. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of getting the job done; it just means we’ll have to wait and see. Kwon, Culbreth and Boynton have proven themselves on the field and will be leaders the inexperienced guys can lean on. And those guys get their shot now.
Running behind the O-line is a stable of running backs I would put up against almost any in the country. Senior Matt Breida burst onto the scene with a 61-yard touchdown gallop early in the 2014 season opener at North Carolina State and has been leaving defenders in his dust ever since. Breida has earned first-team all-conference honors in both of the last two seasons and accumulated over 3,000 yards rushing during his sophomore and junior seasons. He averages 8.3 yards per carry for his career (which is just insane) and has rushed for 123 yards per game and scored 17 touchdowns in each of the last two years.
But he’s far from a one-man show. Junior L.A. Ramsby is the thunder to Breida’s lightning as he has been called on to earn the tough yards over the last couple of seasons. Ramsby has rushed for over 1,500 yards, scored 25 touchdowns and averages nearly five yards per carry during his first two years at Southern.
And just when you think the numbers those two guys have put up over the last two years is impressive, the Eagles can trot out Wesley Fields. As a true freshman last season, all Fields did was put up 682 rushing yards (52.5 YPG), score seven rushing touchdowns, catch four passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, and average 7.5 yards every time he touched the ball — as the third string back. Did I mention he was a true freshman last year?
The wide receiver position at Georgia Southern has never been quite as glamorous as it may be at some other places. An Eagle wide receiver has to be selfless. They have to be able to block. They have to be tough. But they have to be able to make plays when the ball comes their way. And I believe Georgia Southern has a group that can do all of the above this year. Led by senior BJ Johnson — who broke his collarbone but missed just four games before returning late in the season last year (I wasn’t kidding when I called them tough) — this group should be fun to watch.
Georgia Tech transfer and Statesboro native Mike Summers, junior Myles Campbell, seniors Montay Crockett and Keigan Williams, and a group of talented freshmen with high expectations will be able to stretch the field and help this offense put up some big numbers once again this year.
The skills of the players returning gives me hope for more high-scoring, explosive performances by this Eagle offense. My only concern is this: How much of those video game-like stats over the last couple of years can be attributed to coaching? Willie Fritz and Doug Ruse were great offensive-minded coaches. I’m not doubting the new coaching staff at all. I’m simply saying that we don’t know.
But here’s what I do know. If I were an offensive coach at Georgia Southern, I’d be pretty excited about the guys I’m putting on the field in 2016.