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Injuries, inexperience hurting GSU

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Injuries, inexperience hurting GSU

The tank looks pretty empty even though there’s still a long way to go.

After a win over The Citadel in which Georgia Southern managed just 20 points despite benefitting from nine turnovers, the Eagles look pretty punchless again in Saturday’s loss to Samford.

GSU managed just 174 yards and only two touchdowns — one of which required a big kickoff return by Laron Scott deep into Bulldog territory to begin the drive.

As harsh as all of those numbers are, this isn’t necessarily an indictment of Georgia Southern’s offensive ability.

Despite the early successes of the Eagles in the wins over Elon and Coastal Carolina and that gritty performance at Navy, the injuries have piled up in the past few weeks. Now, the picture of GSU football is revealing what this team has been for much of the year — a young team adjusting to a new system.

That explanation of an Eagle team’s struggles isn’t a new one to anyone who has followed them over the past few years, but that doesn’t make the reality of the situation any less true.

Take a trip back in time just a few months to put things in better perspective.

Heading into the Blue-White game at the end of spring practice, cautious optimism was as high a praise that could be found about the prospects of the triple option succeeding in its first year back at Paulson. Sure, it’s a tradition as old as Beautiful Eagle Creek or the yellow school busses, but both of those have always been here and — if you don’t count the occasional rain shower or tune up — don’t have to be maintained and nurtured to keep on chugging along.

Even as the Eagles racked up yards in the early weeks of the season, the fact always remained that they were doing so with a handful of guys – many of them in entirely new positions – that aren’t 100 percent up to speed on the intricacies of their new playbook.

Now, with half a season’s worth of hard-hitting games under their belt, the Eagles have just a handful more experience, but a truckload’s worth of injuries to cope with.

Quarterback Jaybo Shaw has battled through pain to keep himself on the field whenever possible, but his absence — even if the inclusion of freshman Jerrick McKinnon in some packages is planned — is obvious. McKinnon is a solid athlete and looks as if he possesses all of the tools necessary to succeed in the system, but Shaw’s advantage of having two more years of experience is readily evident.

Likewise, the B-back trio of Robert Brown, Tobi Akinniranye and Lee Banks have played a game of "who’s the healthiest?" as they rotate onto the field, and an offensive line that was inexperienced and untested to begin with has spent much of the season plugging holes with question marks.

So where does that leave them?

Well, in terms of postseason hopes, not so good. Perspective is key though.

GSU began this season with the hopes of starting a new chapter in Eagle football history and returning the program to the prominence it has become accustomed to. Perhaps the frustrations that I observed amongst the fans at Saturday’s game proved that — for the first few weeks of the season — the Eagles were doing a little too good of a job.

To gauge where this season is going, the long-term goals must be given as much weight as the short-term goals. There are some bumps and bruises being endured right now, but it is part of the groundwork that must be laid before all of the fun can begin again.

The process of winning with the option is a lot like the offense itself. Georgia Southern might look like it’s just spinning its wheels right now, but once everything is set up right, it will turn the corner and have everyone left chasing in its wake.


Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.

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