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Byrd leading the Eagles' o-line

Byrd leading the Eagles' o-line

Byrd leading the Eagles' o-line

    Dorian Byrd’s expectations when he reported for pre-season camp at Georgia Southern were modest.
    “I wanted to learn the offensive scheme, improve and hopefully my teammates would like me,” said Byrd who played last year at Macon’s Westside High School.
    Now the 6-foot-1, 252 pound Byrd finds himself preparing to make his fourth start as a collegian Saturday when the Eagles (2-1) host Elon (1-2).
     It will be the Southern Conference opener for both teams. Game time is 6 p.m. at Paulson Stadium. The game will be televised on SportSouth.
    Georgia Southern is coming off a 43-26 win at Coastal Carolina, and will be playing at home for the first time since opening against Savannah State. The Eagles are ranked 24th in the FCS coaches poll, the first time they’ve been ranked since Oct. 13, 2008.
    The No. 10 Phoenix, picked to finish second in the conference behind Appalachian State, dropped a 27-21 overtime heartbreaker at Richmond last Saturday, having tied the game on the final play of regulation.
    Elon, incidentally, will be going for its fourth straight win over the Eagles, something only one other SoCon team has accomplished since Georgia Southern joined the league in 1993. Marshall accomplished the feat in the 1993-96 seasons.
    Byrd is coming off the finest game of his short career and for his play against the Chanticleers won the knockdown belt which is awarded weekly by offensive coordinator Brent Davis.
    Byrd had 13 knockdowns against Coastal, and won the belt — an authentic WWF championship belt, according to Davis  — for his performance. The belt is awarded for only a game which the Eagles won.
    “We had it here before and I took it to VMI with me,” Davis said. “When I came back I brought it with me.”
    Davis was an assistant on both Paul Johnson and Mike Sewak’s staffs. He was let go when Sewak was fired after the 2005 season, and was the offensive coordinator at VMI before being hired by Jeff Monken.
    “It’s not an individual award, it’s a team award,” said Byrd. “With my 13 knockdowns I couldn’t have gotten any of them without my teammates. My guard (Blake DeBartola)  delivered them…all I had to do was knock them down.”
    Byrd is more modest when it comes to talking about himself than is his coach.
    “Dorian has a lot of ability and he’s getting better each week,” Davis said. “He’s got a real good motor, and he’s playing really hard.
    “Every week is like a new learning experience for him,” Davis said. “He does something better every week. He’s got to work on his technique, but he’s got great feet and he’s a tough minded kid.
    “He has a chance to be a really good player.”
    While Byrd, as a true freshman, is still raw and a project in the making, the fact he is starting as a true freshman is something rare at Georgia Southern, especially when the Eagles operated as a triple option team.
    “The only kid I can recall starting for us a true freshman was Paul Collins,” said Davis, “and he started at right tackle. Charles Clark started as a true freshman, but he didn’t start until the playoffs. We later moved him to guard and then to center.”
    “I’m getting good coaching,” said Byrd. “Coach Davis doesn’t show favoritism. He told us who worked the hardest would start. I think my biggest asset is that I listen to the coaches, and the guy next to me. My teammates have really helped me.”
    Playing in an option offense represents a change for Byrd just as it has for his high school teammate, Robert Brown, who is the Eagles’ starting fullback.
    “It’s a lot different,” Byrd said. “I have to veer in a lot, and there’s more speed. It’s not muscle as much as it’s strategy. It’s more about how to get to the linebacker and technique.
    “I really consider myself small, but it’s not size,” Byrd said. “It’s more about heart, will to work, and playing with the guy next to you.”

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