Nothing ever goes exactly as planned in football, especially on offense.
To look at a play as it’s drawn up, every run appears to have enough blockers to spring the ball carrier. Similarly, every pass seems to have plenty of protection and the perfect combination of routes that should lead to a receiver breaking into open space for the quarterback.
Yet a quick look at even a few plays of any game show that the efforts to move the ball more often resemble a well thought-out plan that tries to hold together as long as possible before dissolving into chaos.
To be sure, the Georgia Southern offense isn’t flailing or in disarray after two games, the current state of the unit isn’t what was hoped for back in the summer.
A lot of that can be chalked up more to who isn’t playing than negative things being done by those who are on the field. Starting quarterback Shai Werts was knocked out in the first half of the LSU game and remains doubtful to return this week after being held out against Maine. Slotback Wesley Kennedy III has yet to play a down as he serves out an academic suspension.Linemen Drew Wilson and Jarod Leeds missed time in preseason camp with concussions while starting tackle Brian Miller was lost for the season with an injury suffered two weeks before kickoff.
And in one final easy-to-see blemish, the second half of Saturday’s game featured a host of wayward snaps that came after starting center Jakob Cooper left with an injury.
“It’s a lot to lose, for sure,” GS offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse said. “But that’s the nature of this game. The next guy up needs to know that we’re going to need him to perform and that we’re counting on him. That goes for guys getting the ball or linemen who are asked to get in the game or maybe switch to a different spot where we need them.”
For the most part, the scariest injury situation seemed to work out the best for concerned Eagle fans against Maine. Werts will be welcomed back when he is healthy, but backup quarterback Justin Tomlin looked confident and ran hard on his way to 195 yards of total offense and a touchdown. But Tomlin also had some sore spots as he contributed to the Eagles’ seven fumbles and seemed less sure of running the option when going to his left.
“Justin played well and did what we needed him to do,” DeBesse said. “But what I really liked was how he was his own biggest critic. He knows that he can be a lot better and he’s putting in the work.”
Cooper appears to be on track to return to the middle of the offensive line this week at Minnesota, but Saturday raised a red flag for Georgia Southern if the need to replace him pops up again. Spring practice featured a constant cycle of potential centers, with all having their trouble with inconsistent snaps.
Aaron Dowdell was called upon against Maine. His efforts keeping Tomlin guessing, ultimately highlighted (or lowlighted?) with a high snap that sent Tomlin scrambling 15 yards backwards and stalled what could have been a game-clinching touchdown in the second half.
As for the rest of the skill position players, the health is good, but the consistency hasn’t shown up quite yet.
Matt LaRoche had a career day with 154 rushing yards and a touchdown on Saturday while Logan Wright went for 114. But J.D. King was held to 16 yards on 12 carries aside from his one rush of 25 and the game plan didn’t appear to be comfortable showcasing any slotback in the manner that would be expected if Kennedy was on the field.
“There’s a lot of talk about our experience, but we still have a lot of new guys that are learning what we’re trying to do with this offense,” DeBesse said. “I have confidence that we’re going to keep coming around. We just want to see it sooner than later.
“We want this to be the storm before the calm.”
The yo-yoing nature of the Eagles’ early opponents continues this week as Georgia Southern travels to Minnesota. The Maine defense was formidable, but it was also an FCS squad that didn’t come close to posing the threat posed by LSU in the opener. And while the Golden Gophers don’t feature as many future pros as LSU, they are a very big group with a ‘Power 5’ pedigree and a pair of wins already under their belt.
The Georgia Southern offense has shown plenty of positive and negative so far. Another long road trip against a P5 school it is facing for the first time might make it hard to make evaluations of the offense any clearer after this weekend, but the fact remains that continued explosiveness and more overall consistency is needed for the Eagles to end up where they want to be.