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Eagles continue to ramp up for 2024 season
Spring practice aiming for Blue-White games April 20
New Georgia Southern offensive coordinator Ryan Aplin barks out some orders during the first 2024 Spring Football practice at Paulson Stadium on Tuesday, March 19. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

The Georgia Southern football team continues spring football practice at Paulson Stadium. With five practices left the Eagles are past the midway point as they will wrap up with their annual Blue/White game April 20. Head coach Clay Helton feels the team is on schedule and has seen steady improvements on both sides of the ball.

“Being in year two of the defensive system there is just so much more confidence over there,” Helton said. “You can see guys playing faster and there is so much better communication. Offensively, I thought it was a big day at Saturday’s scrimmage for receiver Marcus Sanders. We have been waiting for him to step up and Saturday and Tuesday I felt like he pushed forward to make a mark.

The quarterback battle continues and Helton says he still hasn’t seen any separation, but says he likes what he has seen from senior transfer Dexter Willaims, returning backup J.C. French and redshirt sophomore David Dallas.

“The quarterbacks continue to take turns shining,” Helton said. “I felt like David Dallas did some really nice things Saturday as well as Dexter. I thought J.C. really lit it up Tuesday. It has been fun watching those guys progress and we are thankful there are still 30 more practices before that first game.”

Last year the Eagles scrambled to try and implement the defensive system brought in by first year defensive coordinator Brandon Bailey. With a full season under his belt and a move from linebacker coach to the secondary coach Helton feels Bailey is even more comfortable this time around.

“I feel like moving coach Darius Eubanks to linebacker and allowing coach Bailey to go to the secondary where he feels more comfortable has really helped the defensive room,” Helton said. “I think our safeties are deep and are more comfortable now as well. We have been able to have guys play multiple positions back there like T.J. Smith playing safety and nickel because of the move and it has really been beneficial for us.”

Bailey admits last year was a challenge trying to implement everything so quickly. Having an off season to evaluate things and work on strengths and weaknesses is also something he hasn’t had an opportunity to do since being a coordinator at Buffalo two years ago.

“At Buffalo I went from the season being over to being hired here at Georgia Southern, so this is really my first time to be able to adjust things after a season,” Bailey said. “Making the change with me and coach Eubanks has really helped. You can see the improvement the linebackers have had technically and assignment wise. I am much more comfortable with the third level as well.”

Bailey says they are trying to clean up some areas they felt they struggled with a little as well as fine tune areas where they were moving in the right direction.

“You are always going to hear us talk about trying to eliminate explosive plays,” Bailey said. “We are always going to try and be great on third down whether it’s third and long or third and short. We also have to keep the ball in front of us by setting great edges to our defense and if we do all that we like our chances.”