Georgia Southern Eagles
Head Coach: Willie Fritz
2014 record: 9-3 overall, 8-0 Sun Belt
2014 Postseason results: None
2015 returning starters: 4 offense, 6 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship game: 9500/1
Odds to win 2015 Sun Belt Title: +350
Regular season wins: over 7 -115 /under 7 -105
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In their first season at the FBS level after moving up from FCS, the Georgia Southern Eagles were incredibly successful going 9-3 overall and winning the Sun Belt with a perfect 8-0 record. Unfortunately, the Eagles were not eligible for post-season play because it was their first year at college football’s highest level. The losses came to ACC teams North Carolina State and Georgia Tech by a total of 5 points, plus a blowout loss to Navy. Georgia Southern also avoided playing Sun Belt powers Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette last year.
This year, only 10 starters are back for the Eagles under second year coach Willie Fritz. Still, Georgia Southern is the second choice to win the Sun Belt behind Appalachian State.
Last year, Georgia Southern averaged 488 total yards per game including 381 rushing and 107 passing yards. The Eagles led the nation in rushing and were #16 in total offense, but the passing game was #125 out of 128 teams. Georgia Southern was #10 in scoring nationally at 39 points a game. Only four starters are back for coordinator Doug Ruse.
Junior quarterback Kevin Ellison returns after throwing for 1,001 yards with 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, and rushing for 1,096 yards on 172 carries with 12 touchdowns. Junior Favian Upshaw also took some snaps last year. He threw for 285 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception, and rushed for 385 yards on 40 carries with 2 touchdowns.
Running back Matt Breida is back for his junior season. He had 171 carries for 1,485 yards and 17 touchdowns, along with 8 catches and a touchdown. Redshirt sophomore Alfred Ramsby is also back after rushing for 691 yards on 148 carries with 12 touchdowns. The quarterbacks will continue to get a lot of carries as well.
Only three receivers had more than 8 catches last year for the Eagles last year. Kentrellis Showers (16 catches, 341 yards and 3 touchdowns) and Zach Walker (21 catches for 271 yards) have both graduated. B.J. Johnson is back though after making 23 catches for 312 yards and 3 touchdowns. Ryan Longoria and Derek Keaton will start at the other two receiver spots. James Dean is the starting tight end.
The Eagles must replace five senior starters on the offensive line. For what it’s worth, the line allowed only 5 sacks last season. However, like all triple option teams, Georgia Southern rarely threw the ball. Left guard Darien Foreman could be All-Conference this season. Right guard Roscoe Byrd transferred from UAB when the Blazers disbanded their program.
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Georgia Southern allowed 388 yards per game on defense last year, including 234 passing and 154 rushing yards. The Eagles allowed 23 points a game. Six starters are back for coordinator Jack Curtis.
Three starters return on the defensive line, but nine contributors are back. The Eagles are deep and talented on the line. Ends Bernard Dawson and Lennie Richardson are back but Richardson could lose his starting spot to Quan Daniels. Nose tackle Jay Ellison is also back and will be joined by Jamal Johnson in the interior.
The linebackers must replace Edwin Jackson who led the team with 100 tackles. Antwione Williams is back though after making 66 tackles last year including 8 for loss and 3 sacks. Deshawntee Gallon will replace Jackson.
The secondary must replace safety/nickel back Deion Stanley who had three interceptions last year. Antonio Glover and Matt Dobson return as the safeties. Darius Jones and Caleb Williams will start at the corners, and Robert Brice II will start at the nickel back.
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Kicker Alex Hanks struggled missing seven extra points and making just one out his last four field goals. He started off well making 9 of his first 10. He will compete with Younghoe Koo for the kicking job. Koo made 5 field goals in 2013. Punter Ryan Nowicki was also inconsistent but is back. Derek Keaton will return kicks after averaging just under 28 yards per return last year. Montay Crockett will return punts.
Georgia Southern opens the season with a trip to West Virginia. The Eagles then host Western Michigan and the Citadel, before opening Sun Belt play at Idaho. October brings road games at UL-Monroe and Appalachian State, and home games against New Mexico State and Texas State. In November, the Eagles travel to Troy and Georgia, and host South Alabama and Georgia State. For the second straight season, Georgia Southern avoids UL-Lafayette and Arkansas State.
While the Eagles must break in new starters at key positions such as the offensive line and receiver, they still have Ellison and Breida back. The running game will still be dominant. The defense would like to force more turnovers. With a manageable schedule the Eagles should once again compete for the Sun Belt title. I think Georgia Southern wins around 8 or 9 games and qualifies for a bowl in their second season at FBS.
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