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Fans gather to watch Eagles spring training

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    While players and coaches for Georgia Southern's football team were eager to get back onto the field for spring practice, there's another group of people who were equally excited to see the team back on the field.
    Fans and supporters gathered under the trees of the Eagles' practice fields Friday afternoon to get their first glimpse of new coach Chris Hatcher and the new-look Eagles.
    "When you're retired and you've been golfing or riding your bike, you want to see some football," said Charles Dunn Friday as he watched the team run though various drills.
    Coming off a 3-8 season, the school's second losing season since it restated football in 1981, Eagle fans are anxious to get back to the winning ways that are expected at Georgia Southern.
    "Fans can afford to have high expectations because they don't have any responsibilities," said Lane Van Tassell, who said he's been to the majority of opening spring practices.
    This is Hatcher's first spring practice with the Eagles after replacing the departed Brian VanGorder, who left after one year with Georgia Southern to take a job with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons.
    VanGorder made changes to the Eagle program that drew the ire of a lot of Eagle fans, including dropping the triple option offense that had been the foundation of the team's six national championships. Despite that, many fans still wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.
    "Up until he left, I think a lot of people wanted to give him a chance," said Hadley Campbell.
    With Hatcher, however, the atmosphere surrounding the program appears to have changed.
    "I think Coach Hatcher has set the right tone with everyone he's talked to," he said.
    Hatcher has said he wants to embrace the traditions that make Georgia Southern what it is, including riding to games on yellow school busses, though he won't return to the triple option. Instead, he'll be running the Hatch Attack, an offense that helped him compile a 76-12 record at Valdosta State.
    He's also brought a renewed sense of energy to the fans.
    "I think they'll be pretty good this year," Van Tassell said. "We've still got a lot of talent. The cupboard isn't bare."
    The Eagles will continue spring practice though Saturday, April 21, culminating with the annual Blue-White game.
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