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McKinnon finding a way to get on the field for GSU

McKinnon finding a way to get on the field for GSU

McKinnon finding a way to get on the field for GSU

Jerick McKinnon, a true freshman and ...

    Near the end of the first half of Georgia Southern’s 38-21 win over Elon quarterback Jaybo Shaw took a hard hit that knocked the ball loose, and sent his helmet flying.
    Shaw sat on the ground stunned by the blind side blow while Elon players celebrated the recovery of the fumble. At the time the game was tied, 14-14.
    Eagle fans in the crowd of 18,302 were like Shaw:  they, too, were sitting stunned, and no doubt wondering who would play quarterback.
    Shaw eventually got up and walked off the field under his own power. To the relief of everyone the junior signal caller returned to the game on Georgia Southern’s next possession showing no ill after effects of the hit. He did not miss a play the rest of the game.
    Had Shaw not being able to return against the Phoenix his replacement would have been true freshman Jerick McKinnon, a 5-9, 180 pound speedster from Marietta’s Sprayberry High School who had never played in a triple option offense before signing with the Eagles.
     For that matter he played quarterback only one year in high school, and took every snap out of the shotgun.
    McKinnon is not only the Eagles’ backup quarterback, but he also got into the Elon game as a wide receiver, gaining 22 yards on three carries with two of them picking up first downs.
    Expect to see him in that role again 6 p.m. Saturday at Paulson Stadium when the No. 13 Eagles (3-1, 1-0) host No. 25 Wofford (3-1, 1-0) in a Southern Conference game.
    Georgia Southern was idle last Saturday, but the Terriers opened some eyes with a dominating 38-17 win over Furman behind fullback Eric Breitenstein’s 220 yards and four touchdowns..
    McKinnon said he did not come to Georgia Southern with any expectations of getting immediate playing time as he knew Shaw, the transfer from Georgia Tech, was going to be the starter.
    His mindset, he said, is doing everything he can to be focused and prepared should Shaw have to leave the game, even if it’s for only one play which he did at Coastal Carolina.
    “You have to study constantly,” McKinnon said. “You get a study guide, and the game plan to go by each week.
    “I study Jaybo, too, and look at what he’s doing,” McKinnon said. “I pay attention at practice, and prepare mentally. I make sure I know everything and the personnel. When I’m not on the field I’m learning on every play.
    “I want to play, but not because Jaybo’s hurt.”
    McKinnon saw his first action of the season in the opener against Savannah State, a 48-3 win.
    He made a lasting impression as he dazzled the Tigers with a 20 yard touchdown run and gained 22 on another. McKinnon finished with 47 yards on three carries.
    It’s been quite an adjustment to the triple option for the quick-footed McKinnon who said he played out of the spread in high school. .
    “Taking a direct snap from center is the biggest issue I’ve had to deal with,” McKinnon said, “but with the help of the coaches and working every day with the quarterbacks it’s getting better every day.”
    Shaw has first hand knowledge of what McKinnon is going through as a backup. It’s a role he played for two years at Georgia Tech playing behind Joshua Nesbitt.
    “You just try to take every snap mentally,” Shaw said. “You never know when the starter will go down. You can be thrown into the fire real quick.”
    As a true freshman against Mississippi State he came off the bench early in the game when Nesbitt was injured to spark the Jackets to a 38-7 win.
    The following week he got his lone start at Tech against Duke and led his team to a 27-0 win, completing 9 of 14 passes for 230 yards.
    McKinnon has made a big impression on Shaw, too.
    “He’s got all the potential in the world,” Shaw said. “He can be a great option quarterback if he wants to, and I think he does. I’m excited about being around to watch him grow, and help him as much as I can.”

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