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Eagles enter game week
GS Football
Georgia Southern defensive backs Monquavion Brinson, left, and Joshua Moon get fired up during an Aug. 11 scrimmage at Paulson Stadium.

Any veteran coach knows that the preseason can be an endless stream of questions that aren’t quite ready to be answered. From the depth chart, to offseason injury reports, to game plans, there are plenty of moving pieces that are simply never set up until kickoff on opening day.

That said, Georgia Southern head coach Chad Lunsford seemed as certain of his team’s readiness to get things going as any coach in the nation as he hosted his first game week press conference of his first full year as a head coach on Monday at the Ted Smith Family Football Center at Paulson Stadium.

“Obviously, it’s a big week for Georgia Southern Football,” Lunsford said. “We’re excited to get back on the field and see what the 2018 is going to look like. This first game is going to be about mental toughness and self-discipline. We want to keep it simple and be ready to play fast.”

Lunsford will lead his Eagles into battle Saturday at 6 p.m. as Georgia Southern hosts South Carolina State in its season opener. The last meeting between the two schools came in 2010 when Georgia Southern claimed a 41-16 victory in the first round of the FCS playoffs.

Throughout the offseason, much of the talk surrounding the Eagles has been of change that is welcomed (many changes to the coaching staff) and changes that will always leave die-hard fans apprehensive (another version of the option that isn’t the under-center, flexbone style that has brought so much success over the years).

Above all else is the need to improve from a program-worst 2-10 record last season.

Ironically, it’s that low point that has brought about one of the biggest positives Lunsford has seen over the offseason.

“The biggest thing is the positive vibe,” Lunsford said. “Even as we closed out last season, a lot of guys were up and excited for what we’re trying to build.

“Everything is coming into place. We want to be careful about how fast we’re implementing new schemes. We want to fit the schemes to the guys we have, but so far, we’re going along good and guys are getting excited.”

Aside from schematic changes, another big question mark for Saturday’s opener will be the personel. The Eagles return 18 starters from last year’s squad, but a depth chart released Monday morning features 16 true and redshirt freshmen.

A team that was one of the youngest and most inexperienced in the country last year is now a veteran squad — especially when considering the fact that many Sun Belt teams are replacing departed starting quarterbacks and key skill position and defensive players in 2018. 

A more experienced GS starting squad will be relied on early, but new NCAA rules permitting up to four games of participation before redshirting a player also make it easier for the coaching staff to see which young players might be able to step up right away.

“We want guys to feel like they’re fighting and working for everything they get,” Lunsford said. “

Pick up Wednesday’s edition of the Herald for coverage on the Eagles’ switch to a new 3-4 defensive scheme this season.

Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.