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Paving the road

GSU offensive line key to Eagles' success

Paving the road

Paving the road

The Georgia Southern offensive line o...

Brent Russell is the glamour boy of the Georgia Southern defense.

Russell is a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award which goes to the top defensive player in FCS football. He’s an All-Southern Conference selection, and will most likely be named to several All America teams when they’re announced in the coming days.

Needless, to say Russell is a fan favorite.

Everyone’s eyes will be on No. 66 when Georgia Southern (9-4) goes for its sixth straight win at 2 p.m. Saturday at Spartanburg, S.C., when it meets Wofford (10-2) in an FCS quarterfinal playoff game.

However, even the most ardent Georgia Southern fan might have trouble identifying who plays right guard on the offensive line. Or left guard, or center, etc.

For the most part the Georgia Southern offensive line has labored in anonymity. With 746 yards rushing in two playoff games that is changing.

The best known of the group is right tackle Brett Moore, last year’s backup long snapper who this year emerged as an All-SoCon first team pick.

Following last Saturday’s 31-15 win at William and Mary fullback Robert Brown got the offensive line the most attention it has received all season when he said, after running for 178 yards, "My offensive line punched them in the mouth every play."

For the record the Eagles offensive line consists of freshman Dorian Byrd (6-1, 246) at left tackle, sophomore Ryne Byrne (6-0, 269) at left guard, junior Brandavious Mann (6-2, 258) at center, junior William Maxwell (6-1, 281) at right guard and Moore (6-3, 253).

Sophomore Blake DeBartola (6-0, 261) serves as a backup at every position on the line. In some games this year he has played center, guard and tackle.

Georgia Southern is averaging 268.7 yards per game rushing, but in its five game win streak it is averaging 318 despite getting only 217 in the 21-14 overtime win over Appalachian State.

"We’re growing up a little bit," offensive coordinator and line coach Brent Davis said. "They’ve got more confidence in what they’re doing, and they’re playing for each other.

"I know that sounds like a cliché," Davis said, "but they really do feel a sense of responsibility to one another, and they don’t want to let the other guy down."

The biggest attributes his group has, Davis said, is a propensity for hard work, and intelligence.

"They’ve worked hard, and that above all is the reason we’ve improved," Davis said. "They’ve come out every day and worked hard, and we’ve got some guys with ability, too.

"This is a really smart group," Davis said. "It’s the smartest group I’ve ever had."

Byrne replaced Maxwell in the lineup following the Navy game only to be injured the following week at Coastal Carolina. He missed six games before returning in the regular season finale at Furman.

Maxwell was moved to right guard where he replaced freshman Zach Lonas.

Davis offered the following comments on his group:



















: "Blake’s played every position—center, guard, tackle and sometimes in the same game. It’s hard to put a value on someone who can do that. He’s been consistent and solid in every game. A great guy to have, and he works his tail off."
: "Is the leader of our group. He’s an emotional leader, leads by example, and is a vocal leader. He has a tremendous work ethic and has helped Dorian Byrd immensely. He has taken him under his wing. Those two guys are very athletic. This is Brett’s first year of playing, but he has a tremendous understanding of what we’re doing. He knows all five positions, and he really is a tremendous leader."
: "The last four or five games has played as well as any lineman I’ve had when I was here before. He’s really good ability wise for what we do, and he has gotten so much better. The Navy game was probably a low point for him, things happened so fast and he wasn’t aggressive in that game. But, he kept working, and in the middle of the year he started hitting his stride and really playing well. He didn’t make the all conference team, but I told him before the South Carolina State game he had a chance to make the All-MEAC team. After the game I told him I felt he had made the All-MEAC team, and after Saturday’s game I told him I felt he had made the All-CAA team."
: "He has worked hard, and he has had some tough things happen to him…his dad getting killed last Thanksgiving. He’s just remarkable the way he’s pushed through it and the way he carries himself. He’s always upbeat and just a smart player."
: "Athletic, has quick feet, a good fit for what we do. Did it in high school in a similar offense. Powerful. Ryne is an aggressive guy by nature, and has played well the last three weeks. Playing his best football since he’s been back. Good to have him back."
: "A tremendous athlete, and really a very intelligent football player who has not struggled to learn the position at all. He’s an explosive guy who has a bright future in this offense as he continues to get bigger and stronger."

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