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Eagle offense taking flight
GS Football
Georgia Southern offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse, right, and head coach Chad Lunsford look on as the Eagle offense executes a play during fall camp at Paulson Stadium.

In even the best of times, most Georgia Southern fans can’t go more than a few days without taking inventory of the Eagles’ offense.

For over 30 years the Eagles have utilized some form of option attack to become a program that is as well known for its ability to put up huge rushing numbers as it is for its six national championships. When the program stumbled in the 2016-17 seasons, the Eagles’ lack of a dangerous rushing attack seemed to hurt the pride of the fanbase just as much as the team’s win-loss record and failure to make bowl games.

When then-interim head coach Chad Lunsford was given the permanent title just before the end of last season, he made the decision that the option was still the way to go, but that he needed to find someone new to run it at Georgia Southern.

In stepped Bob DeBesse, a 37-year coaching veteran that has a quarter-century’s worth of experience in coaching offenses at the FBS level.

So far, so good for DeBesse as the Eagles are 2-0 and have averaged 35.5 points per game this season. At times, his version of the shotgun/pistol triple-option looks very similar to what Georgia Southern had attempted to run the last two seasons, but DeBesse is more concerned with current results than comparisons to past seasons.

“Honestly, I didn’t watch much film on Georgia Southern before accepting this job,” DeBesse said. “I didn’t want to build up any preconceived notions of what our players could or couldn’t do. What I do know is that we have a lot of hard workers. And when I have seen film from last year, I see a lot of positives that we can build on.”

Early on in 2018, DeBesse’s offense has hit the ground running - and throwing.

The opener against South Carolina State saw sophomore quarterback Shai Werts take over in the second half on his way to 163 yards and three touchdowns to set a pair of career bests. Last week, the rest of the backfield got in on the fun as the Eagles racked up 334 yards. And when the UMass defense tried to guard against the run, Werts had a field day through the air as he passed for 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

“We have to be able to throw the ball,” DeBesse said. “In order to be effective, we need to keep teams on their heels.

“I liked the progress that we showed from the first game to the second. Most of all, I was really proud of how we were able to succeed (against UMass) with thing that we had put in that week. It’s good to see them taking it from the practice field to the game.”

On the surface, the Eagles have the pieces in place to entrench themselves as an offensive power sooner than later. Werts looks much more poised in his second season under center and Wesley Fields and Monteo Garrett are stellar senior leaders in the backfield. 

Combine that with a young line and receiving corps that looks to be rising to the challenge and there is plenty of reason for Eagle fans to be optimistic about the team’s ability to score and break big plays as the season progresses.

“I like our communication on the field and how we’ve conducted ourselves,” DeBesse said. “We’ve handled adversity well in spots where we’ve stalled a little bit."

With such an extensive coaching background, DeBesse is able to see the big picture from the early success. The results have been positive through two games, but there is still a long way to go before the offense gets to where he believes it can be.

“We aren’t where we want to be, but we didn’t expect to be at this point and I think the coaching staff is realistic about how we’re going to progress,” Debesse said. “For the players, it’s about being complete. You have to know what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it - the assignment and technique.

“Then there’s the why of what you’re doing. When everyone what they’re doing and what the guy next to them is doing and why that works together, that’s when you become the player and the overall unit that you can be.”