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Notebook: Help from everywhere

Notebook: Help from everywhere

Notebook: Help from everywhere

Georgia Southern safety Michel Butler...


    It seems like at some point in each of the last few weeks, somebody on the field for Georgia Southern has made a play and left the crowd asking one question.
    Who?
    From true freshman Josh Gebhardt early in the season to the recent emergence of Michael Spaulding and Lavelle Westbrooks in the secondary, playmakers have been replacing injured starters and earning spots on the depth chart all year long.
    Saturday, when Georgia Southern beat No. 1 Appalachian State, a safety — number 40 — intercepted DeAndre Presley in the end zone to preserve the Eagles’ second-half shutout.
    So, where’d he come from? 
    “I came from a [Division II] school, I walked on down here and I only had 50 dollars and a bag with some cleats and some clothes,” said junior Michael Butler, who left North Greenville and transferred to GSU in 2009. “The Lord was with me and made me a way.”
    Butler played corner for the Eagles until he replaced injured Evan Mattingly at safety against The Citadel, but of course, he’s used to moving around.
    “[North Greenville] moved me around, too,” he said.
    He may have found the position he likes best after making such a big play against the No. 1 team in front of a homecoming crowd of 20,000.
    “Right now, I’m liking safety,” he laughed, although he’s happy to help out wherever he can. “Wherever the team needs me, wherever the coaches need me. I’ll kick the ball if they want me to.”
    All of the young and inexperienced players who have seen the field this season chalk the success up to the same source — coaching.
    “They coach first string, third string, fourth string — it doesn’t matter,” said Westbrooks, who started for the first time at Chattanooga after an injury to Carson Hill. “They coach every string the same, and expect them to step in just like a first-stringer would.”

Freshman of the Week
    With his four-yard touchdown run in overtime against ASU, true freshman fullback Robert Brown was awarded Southern Conference Freshman of the Week.
    He deflected the award directly to his blockers.
    “My hat goes off to the offensive line,” said Brown. “Coach relied on me to stick it in there, and right before we broke the huddle, I said, ‘This is it. It’s up to you guys.’ I can’t make any move without them doing their jobs. If it wasn’t for them, I couldn’t have scored.”

Applying pressure
    Appalachian State quarterback DeAndre Presley has been picking apart SoCon defenses all year long. Georgia Southern defensive coordinator Brent Pry decided to blitz and keep Presley under pressure, and take his chances with the matchups in the secondary.
    “We wanted to play on their side of the line of scrimmage,” said Pry. “Of course that meant challenging the guys in the back row — playing some man coverage and some zero coverage — and that guaranteed we could do that. We had some success with it early and it kind of ran its course.”

Let him go
    Quarterback Jaybo Shaw, who has been fighting off injury all season, gave the sideline the thumb’s up every time he took a hit, missing only one snap against ASU.
    GSU head coach Jeff Monken put his faith in Shaw to make the decision to play.
    “As long as he thinks he can go, he’ll keep going. He’s unselfish. When he can’t go, he’ll tell us that he can’t,” said Monken. “He wants to help his team win.”

The letdown
    One focus of the GSU coaching staff has been keeping the Eagles focused after such an emotional win at home.
    When the Eagles face Western Carolina Saturday, the goal will be to keep the momentum — something that’s often difficult in college football.
    “Missouri beat Oklahoma, turned around and lost the next week. South Carolina beat Alabama and turned around and lost to Kentucky,” Monken said. “Of course you’ve got Wisconsin who beat Ohio State then turned around and beat a really good Iowa team the next week. There doesn’t have to be [a letdown]. It’s the attitude you take as a team and how you approach it.” 
   
    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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