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It's back! Monken's option is ready to run

It's back! Monken's option is ready to run

It's back! Monken's option is ready to run

    The Georgia Southern Eagles lost the leading passer, the leading rusher and the leading receiver from 2009.
    Two things stand out about that — first off, all three were underclassmen and second, nobody really seemed to notice.
    What mattered in the spring was that Jeff Monken returned to Statesboro with the triple-option offense learned from Paul Johnson and used in all six GSU national championship seasons, and through 2005.
    Some of the players from 2009’s 5-6 team bought in to the return of the option, and others decided to go elsewhere.
    “I’m not going to pamper or baby anybody. We’re Georgia Southern. This is our offense, this is our defense, this is what we do,” Monken said after the team’s first day in pads back in spring camp. “We’re going to try to win every football game. I told them from the get-go, ‘If you’re in, if you want to be with us, if you want to win a championship, then let’s go. If you don’t, I’ll help you go somewhere else to fulfill your personal goals.’ I’ve got no problem with that. The ones that are here, I assume they want to be here.”
    The guys that stuck with the team (5-6, 4-4 Southern Conference in 2009) weren’t the only ones that wanted to be there in the spring. As the Eagles installed the option, some familiar faces like Chaz Williams, Zzream Walden and Greg Hill came back to check out how things were going.
    “I asked them [in the spring] because there were some old players that were back watching practice,” said offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Brent Davis, “I said, ‘You know why those guys come back to watch practice? Because it means something to them.’ I said, ‘You guys haven’t been here when Georgia Southern was Georgia Southern yet. It’s the greatest place in the world.’”
    The way Monken sees it, there’s only one reason why any recruit should want to come to GSU.
    “I told every recruit we took, ‘Don’t come here because you like me. Don’t come here because you like the coaches recruiting you, or you like the offense or you like the defense,’” Monken said during spring camp. “‘Come here because you want to be at Georgia Southern and you want to win championships. That’s the reason you come to school here.’ I hope they came here for that reason, and if they’re still out here, I suspect that’s why they’re here.”

    When Monken left Georgia Tech after the 2009 season and came to Statesboro to take over at GSU, he wasn’t alone. With him came Jaybo Shaw, Tech’s backup quarterback for each of Johnson’s first two years as a Yellow Jacket.
    Shaw’s experience with the offense leads a group that — with the exception of the offensive line and wide receivers — hasn’t ever played a snap in its current positions.
    True freshman Robert Brown leads the fullbacks, and with 13 slotbacks, it looks like there will be a running-back-by-committee situation until some experience is gained and players start rising to the top.
    Wide receivers Mitch Williford, Patrick Barker and Tyler Sumner may be sophomores, but the fact that they’re playing the same position they did in 2009 coupled with their contributions to the team last season make them look like seasoned veterans compared to the rest of the offense.
    In the trenches, the roles Brandavious Mann and backup-long-snapper-turned-starting tackle Brett Moore have on the line reflect the team-wide shift from size to speed.

    It’s hard to believe Brent Russell is just a sophomore.
    The preseason All-American defensive tackle anchors a defensive line that saw Roderick Tinsley join Russell in the middle, and Dion Dubose and Auburn transfer John Douglas move to the ends to add speed.
    In fact, much like on offense, everyone but the safeties and corners are playing a new position, all in an effort to make the defense smaller and faster to adapt to the growing college football trend to spread offenses.
    “It’s basketball on grass,” said GSU defensive coordinator Brent Pry about the nationwide shift in offensive philosophy. “You’ve got to match up personnel-wise or else you’re subbing all the time and getting your two-back, two-tight end type of guys off the field and getting your nickel personnel on. Right now we just choose to play with nickel-type people all the time. That’s just the nature of where it’s going.”
    Darius Eubanks, the team’s second-leading tackler in 2009, plays bandit, a strong-side linebacker that doubles as a nickleback, and Derek Heyden, Laron Scott and Carson Hill return to the secondary.

The other side of the ball
    The Eagles have a much more favorable schedule than they did in 2009.
    They suffered losses to Samford and playoff representatives Appalachian State and Elon on the road last season, and get them at home this time around.
    In non-conference play, GSU faces Savannah State and Coastal Carolina — two programs that have never beaten the Eagles.
    The one circled on the calendar is the Sept. 11 matchup against Navy in Annapolis, Md.
    Both teams run the exact same offense, and Monken and Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo go way back, coaching together at Navy through 2007.
    By the time that one is in the books, the Eagles will have a pretty good idea just exactly how far they’ve come.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.

Some random thoughts...
    — You wanted it, you got it. The triple option is back at Georgia Southern, and the man installing it (Jeff Monken) learned from the master himself, Paul Johnson. If there's one sentence that has come from the mouths of both of those coaches more than any other it's, "The option isn't a magic wand."
    They're just being modest, right?
    — The most satisfying part of the option is arguably watching the quarterback getting leveled by a linebacker while simultaneously pitching to a slotback, who takes it 63 yards to the house.             Unfortunately, history shows that when installing the option, sometimes slotbacks seem to think a whole lot more about that kind of satisfaction than the satisfaction of arch blocking. Let's hope that's not an issue for the 2010 Eagles.
    — An 18-play, 83-yard drive that eats up nine minutes off the clock results in the same amount of points as an 83-yard B-back dive up the gut on the first play from scrimmage.
    Just sayin'.
    — It'll be nice to see Georgia Southern line up in anything other than a five-wide, shotgun set on 1st-and-goal from the 2.
    — Who will be this season's Carl Kearney?
    — If GSU quarterbacks get sacked as many times as they did last season, well... yikes.
    — Due to the size of the Eagles' defensive front seven, I'll bet a lot of teams will try to run it up the gut.         Yeah, good luck with that.
    — Finally, another five-game home schedule this season means more "road warriors" action for GSU. so make those games in Statesboro count.
    See you at Paulson....

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