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From the booth to the field

Eagles explain play-calling process

It all happens so quickly — the call, the snap, the play.
But in between each time Georgia Southern center Lance Wayne hikes the ball to quarterback Travis Clark, there’s plenty of decision making, overriding and communicating from the booth to the sideline to the field.
    It all begins with offensive coordinator Darin Hinshaw, who calls the plays from the booth based on scripts and decisions the coaches made as a staff during the week.
    “I call the play first and then I look at the defense and decide if that's the best play to be in depending on what they give us and what they take away from us,” Hinshaw said. “Then I can change the play, and I can also put it on the quarterback to change the play at that point. Then we’ll run the play, or we’ll stay with the play that I called originally.”
    Hinshaw radios the call down to the sidelines where four designated signalers — wide receivers coach Jeff Beckles, tight ends coach John Wozniak and backup quarterbacks Chris Rogers and Zach Stanford — convey the play to the offense. It’s the same procedure on every down.
    At any point during the process, Eagle head coach Brian VanGorder can and does interject.
    “I’m more of a rhythmical coach offensively,” said VanGorder, who has a defensive background. “I just have a sense of rhythm in offense, so I throw out what I want a lot of the time, from screens to boots to play-actions to runs, which I’m sure drives our offensive coaches crazy. But that’s where it is right now, and that’s where I need it to be for myself.”
    VanGorder said there is some truth to the belief that when defensive coaches become head coaches they tend to over think the calls on offense.
    “I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” VanGorder said. “I know I probably drive our guys crazy, but that’s who I am right now. That’s what I am. I think it’s been part of the transition, and I think that influence has been very positive with our offense. We’ve been able to stay very multiple this year and really kind of expand on what Darin brought into Georgia Southern’s program. So we’re getting it where we want to get it to, and that goes for all aspects of our program.”
    At the moment, coaches are making most of the calls for Clark, a sophomore who transferred to Georgia Southern this summer. The season opener was Clark’s first collegiate start, and coaches are hoping to eventually entrust the young quarterback with calling plays.
    “He didn’t have a spring (practice) under his belt,” Hinshaw said. “Right now, putting that (pressure) on a kid that’s never even played really is tough. Obviously, we want to progress with all of our quarterbacks. My ultimate goal would be to have them call all of the plays from the line of scrimmage.”
    Once the offense has lined up, Eagle fans have wondered why the players continue to look towards the sidelines.
    “Some people think it’s because they don’t know what’s going on, but they know what’s going on, they are just looking to see if we are staying with this play or changing to a new one,” Hinshaw said. “They all know what they are doing, they are just looking back to see if this is the best play to run or do we need to change it to a different one based on what the defense is doing.”
    Georgia Southern has been criticized for playing conservatively on offense, particularly in the second half and when the Eagles are trailing. But that’s the type of game VanGorder wants his team to play.
    “I am a conservative coach,” VanGorder said. “I’ve laid the blue print out of how I expect to build the program. It’s not going to be wild and all over the place.”
    Just like the players and fans, Georgia Southern coaches are adjusting to the biggest transition in Georgia Southern football history. A few had coached with one another prior to arriving in Statesboro, but the group is still learning to work together as a staff. That goes right down to deciding which plays to run on offense.
     “As we all grow together, everybody learns the expectations because that takes time in transition with a bunch of new coaches together,” VanGorder said. “I’ll probably do less and less of those conversations (chiming into the play calling). But again, I’m more interested in good rhythm and tempo because that’s what I think good offense is.”
    The Eagles (3-3, 2-1) will host defending national champion and top-ranked Appalachian State (6-1, 3-0) Saturday at noon. Eagle fans are encouraged to wear as much blue as possible to the game, which will be televised by SportsSouth (formerly Turner South).

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