That new-car smell has worn off a little bit, and Jeff Monken’s triple-option offense has gotten enough miles under its belt three games into the season to give us at least a pretty good idea of what kind of team the Georgia Southern Eagles have in the first year of the third new era of the last decade.
As the Eagles (2-1) spend the week gearing up for their first Southern Conference game Saturday against No. 10 Elon at Paulson Stadium, let’s take a look at some of the team’s apparent strengths and weaknesses on the offensive side of the ball.
Jaybo Shaw came from Georgia Tech and was immediately heralded as the starting quarterback at GSU.
Three games deep, it’s easy to see why.
Shaw may not have the breakaway speed trademarked by many of the past Eagle greats, but what he does bring to the table is a grasp of the offense, a very-good-but-somewhat-inconsistent arm, the ability to get some tough yards when they’re there and the fortitude to take a hit at the end — so far.
True freshmen Jerick McKinnon and Ezayi Youyoute showed in the opening game against Savannah State tat they have the athleticism to play the position, but they haven’t made an appearance since — even when Shaw got shaken up at Coastal Carolina Saturday — so there’s no evidence to show if either has enough understanding of the offense to make a capable backup.
True freshman Robert Brown has shown the speed and toughness to play the fullback position at GSU, but hasn’t shown the explosiveness between the tackles to establish the dive.
Unfortunately, that’s the bread and butter of the position.
As the offensive line continues getting more comfortable in its skin and Brown works on his strength and quickness off the ball, that could change, but so far, it hasn’t been effective.
Senior fullback Tobi Akinniranye doesn’t have Brown’s speed, but has been able to get big yards up the gut in limited action.
Both need to work on holding on to the football, and both are questionable to start Saturday's game.
There’s been a fairly consistent, four-man rotation at slotback, and each has shown some playmaking ability both through the air and on the ground.
The loss of Johnathan Bryant to injury in the opener was big, but he was replaced with the speed of Darries Robinson. J.J. Wilcox looks to be the most complete slotback so far, and has been the team’s biggest playmaker on offense.
There has been quite a rotation happening on the offensive line as the coaching staff continues trying to find the best five players, and one word sums up their performance thus far – inconsistent.
Brett Moore, the only senior, was a backup long snapper last season and there’s not much else to say but that they’re young and they have a long way to go.
Playmaking ability by Shaw, Brown and the slotbacks both through the pass and the run has helped cover up a lot of inexperience along the line.
The wide receivers — pardon me, call them wide blockers — are the most experienced group on the GSU offense.
There’s been a stable, as four different guys — Mitch Williford, Tyler Sumner, Patrick Barker and true freshman Tray Butler — have all made plays in the passing game.
The most encouraging aspect of the position is that all four have seemed to embrace their roles in the running game
Defense and special teams
Perhaps the brightest spot of the team has been the play of the other two phases of the game.
Next week, GSU will have already played arguably the best rushing offense (Navy) and best passing offense (Elon) it will see this season, so we’ll take a look at where the defense and special teams stand.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.