Matt Yogus-061311Listen to My Take with Matt Yogus - Let the hype begin
It’s never too early for hype, and the Georgia Southern Eagles already have plenty of that.
Sure, kickoff of the 2011 football season is still more than three long months away, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been plenty of GSU talk floating around the FCS world.
There’s already been talk of big things for the Eagles in 2011, so what is it, exactly, that has the buzz-o-meter spiking in mid-June?
This column isn’t the only example of the media making football prognostication a year-round hobby for fans around the country. It’s just how it is.
Thanks to the BCS machine, it isn’t always good news in the offseason, but some folks actually want to talk about the game itself, and not just off-the-field shenanigans.
There have already been All-American trophies handed out, conference champions crowned and preseason polls released.
And everybody’s 2011 recruits, for all intents and purposes, are still just recruits.
But that hasn’t stopped Georgia Southern from getting Top-5 hype, and even a nod as the preseason No. 1 team in the country in at least one poll.
And why not?
They return all but one-and-a-half starters, on both sides of the ball, and after a roller-coaster ride of a 2010 regular season, made an improbable run all the way to the semifinals.
Rarely does a college football team put a nearly-identical starting lineup on the field in consecutive seasons, but the Eagles are about to do just that.
For the first time in a while, arguably since the days of Adrian Peterson, Georgia Southern is putting legitimate football stars on the field.
One could argue that the transfer of Antonio Henton from Ohio State gave the Eagles a prominent figure in the college landscape, but now there’s two two big-picture, national names — Jaybo Shaw and Brent Russell.
Shaw has made headlines ever since he signed with Georgia Tech. He was a highly-regarded dual-threat quarterback out of high school, and he was the first player to sign with Paul Johnson after Johnson became a Yellow Jacket. While he may not be a star nationally, he certainly garners regional interest and puts a pretty big spotlight on GSU.
Russell has made a name for himself because, well, he just may be the single best football player in the division. He was certainly the most dominant defensive player on the field in each of GSU’s 15 games a year ago.
Not to mention, those two guys get mentioned every time GSU comes up.
In just one year, head coach Jeff Monken set the bar extremely high for himself.
On the big picture, the regular season left a lot to be desired. After Samford handed the Eagles their fourth loss of the season, the playoff hopes in 2010 dangled precariously on a thread, but an epic, overtime win over No. 1 Appalachian State the
following weekend sparked a winning streak which — thanks to an expanded playoff field of 20 teams — allowed GSU to (finally) get back into the postseason for the first time since 2005.
Folks expect a lot in 2011. They have every reason to.
The first game of 2011, against a Samford team that has beaten the Eagles every year since joining the Southern Conference in 2008, will make a fairly large statement as to what GSU will be all about this year.
Until then, it looks like the pressure’s on, because pressure always comes hand-in-hand with hype.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.