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Eagles bulking up

Linemen dominate signing class

Eagles bulking up

Eagles bulking up

New Georgia Southern head football co...

    In his first signing class as Georgia Southern’s head coach, and the Eagles’ first signing class as a Football Bowl Subdivision program, head coach Willie Fritz focused on the trenches.
    Of the 17 players that signed on Wednesday’s National Signing Day and the three transfers who came into the program after the 2013 season, half are linemen. Five weigh over 300 pounds, including 6-foot-5, 340-pound offensive lineman Christian Taylor from Lexington, S.C.
    “We were looking for guys who we thought were FBS-talented football players,” Fritz said about the class. “There are a lot of offensive lineman that will be playing next year for us who are seniors. We really thought we needed to beef up in that area.”
    The Eagles signed only three freshmen skill players on offense, running back Ryan Peterson (Irwin County), tight end Luke Lewallen (Dominion Christian) and wide receiver Kameron Maye (Murphy/Mobile, Ala.). A pair of running backs, Lakenderic Thomas and Derek Keaton, transferred to GSU from junior college on January.
    Two Statesboro High players will join the Eagles as preferred walkons, defensive back Jacob Schofill and wide receiver Joe Corless, son of former GSU co-defensive coordinator Kevin Corless.
    Fritz said that “at least 10” of the signees were already being recruited by GSU when he was hired on Jan. 10, including a pair of junior-college cornerbacks from Texas, Darrius White and Caleb Williams, who will replace departing seniors Lavelle Westbrooks and Darius Safford.
    “That was a position we felt like we had an immediate need at,” Fritz said. “Both of those guys were already being recruited by Georgia Southern before I got here, and we feel like both of those guys have the opportunity to come in and compete for a starting job.”
    One position notably without a signee was quarterback, where the Eagles return four players — Kevin Ellison, Alfred Ramsby, Favian Upshaw and Vegas Harley — who are all underclassmen.
    “We feel like we’ve got quarterbacks on the roster now that are younger guys,” Fritz said. “You spread that out when you're recruiting, particularly quarterbacks. We didn’t feel that was a pressing need for us.”
    One key during the process was staying with the players who had already committed to GSU before former coach Jeff Monken left for Army, something Fritz said was important to GSU director of athletics Tom Kleinlein.
    “TK told me when I came in, ‘Hey, these kids are committed to us. We want to be committed to them.’ Thank goodness when I watched tape, they were good football players,” Fritz laughed.
    While many schools scramble to offer and accept recruits on signing day, Fritz said there were no surprises for GSU on Wednesday morning.
    “As far as today was concerned, it was a fairly uneventful day as far as guys getting flipped and changed and all those other kinds of things,” he said.
    Under FBS eligibility rules, GSU must offer an average of 77 full scholarships during the two-year period of 2013 and 2014. The Eagles offered 75 in 2013 and reached the target number with this class. Fritz said there are still five scholarships available. Prospects have until April 1 to sign on for the 2014 season.
    “We may sign a couple more guys and we may not,” Fritz said.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.


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