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Defense dominates in Eagles' second scrimmage

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Defense dominates in Eagles' second scrimmage

Georgia Southern defensive end Rashad Williams (93) leaps and bats down a pass by quarterback Jerick McKinnon during Saturday's spring football scrimmage at Paulson Stadium.


The Georgia Southern football team’s defense felt pressure to perform in Saturday’s second scrimmage of spring practice after the offense scored eight touchdowns the previous Saturday.

"The defense got tired of getting chewed out by the coaches," rising senior All-America nose tackle Brent Russell said of last week’s practices and meetings. "We came out with the right mindset today and I think it showed. The first seven groups went out and the 1s and 2s (the first- and second-string offensive units), they really didn’t get anything. We were getting after them pretty good."

The defense dominated by forcing fumbles, breaking up potential touchdown catches in the end zone and sacking quarterbacks, including twice for safeties. The scrimmage lasted from 9:30-11:15 a.m.

J.J. Wilcox returned the opening kickoff for a 70-yard touchdown to highlight special teams play, but the defense limited the offense to three touchdowns: two rushing, one passing.

GSU head coach Jeff Monken said he was happy with the defense’s performance.

"The first several drives, they stopped those guys and did a good job. Got them off the field," Monken said. "It was good to see the limit of big plays. Last week, there were a lot of big plays by the offense and that was worrisome for sure.

"There weren’t enough sustained drives on offense. That’s worrisome. We’ve got to balance it out and, obviously, when we play someone else, we want our defense to stop them and not let them have anything. And our offense, we don’t want to be stopped. It’s good to see in the spring both sides have some success."

Ezayi "Izzy" Youyoute started at quarterback with the first-team offense. He fumbled on the second play from the line of scrimmage. Youyoute wasn’t the only player who struggled to hold onto the football. Later on, quarterback Jerick McKinnon and A-back Darreion Robinson each fumbled. Quarterback Prince McJunkins fumbled on two consecutive plays.

"We’ve got to get the ball off the ground," Monken said. "The ball was on the ground far too many times today… the most disappointing thing about the scrimmage for sure."

Youyoute connected with tight end Tyler Sumner, who made an acrobatic catch for a 23-yard gain. Youyoute fumbled a second time, but on the next play he ran for a 48-yard touchdown to cap a 99-yard drive.

"The 99-yard drive off the goal line was really, I think, a great drive for those guys and gave them some confidence after getting sent off the field more than a few times by the defense," Monken said.

The drive was one of the few highlights for the offense. Defensive end Terico Agnew sacked McKinnon. McKinnon also was sacked for a safety, as was McJunkins.

Cornerback Nick Wright foiled a potential touchdown catch by Kentrellis Showers by batting the ball down in the end zone.

"Kentrellis is a great receiver. I was just trying to stick with him, trying to do my best to work on my technique," Wright said. "That’s the main thing Coach O (Orlando Mitjans) talks about, working on your technique. I played my technique and went up with him, tried my best to go up and get the ball."

Free safety Boyd Sasser broke up McKinnon’s pass intended for Wilcox in the end zone to prevent a touchdown.

"We aimed to take care of the big plays because we gave up a lot (in the first scrimmage)," Sasser said. "I think we did well with that today. When you can take away the big plays, the defense has a chance to get some momentum, and that really played in our favor today."

B-Back Seon Jones ran for a 35-yard gain to set up quarterback Russell DeMasi’s 16-yard touchdown pass to DeVonte Lewis. Robinson ran for a 2-yard touchdown.

B-Back Dominique Swope (lower-body strain) and A-back Robert Brown (sore back) did not play. Swope is recovering after collapsing during Monday’s practice and being taken by ambulance to East Georgia Regional Medical Center, where he was released later that night. Brown has not practiced this spring.

Also sidelined were 11 other injured players, including 10 who spent a portion of the scrimmage walking up and down the stadium’s steps as part of their rehabilitation. Offensive linemen Blake DeBartola and Trevor McBurnett, who both have high ankle sprains, were among the 10 players who walked the stadium steps.

"We’re using Dorian Byrd as a center just because there’s a lack of bodies right now because of injury," said Monken, who mentioned that linebackers Darius Eubanks and Carlos Cave, and defensive lineman Javon Mention, are recovering from injuries.

Monken said neither Youyoute nor McKinnon has emerged as the frontrunner at quarterback.

"It would be difficult for me to say right now who the quarterback is, but the good news is we would be perfectly comfortable with either one of them as our quarterback," Monken said. "And we’re not in the situation where we’re not sure who the quarterback is going to be because both of them stink. They’re both good quarterbacks. And there’s going to be opportunities for both of those guys, when they’re not in the ballgame at quarterback, to play another position.

"I think, probably, it’s likely that both of them will remain at least a backup quarterback where they could go in the football game and not switch to something else full-time to where they don’t practice under center or behind the center at all."


Noell Barnidge can be reached at (912) 489-9408.


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