Ga. Southern (1-0) at The Citadel (1-0)
Saturday, 6 p.m.
Radio: 103.7 FM
Robert Brown has the peace of mind he’s been seeking since his freshman year at Georgia Southern in 2010.
However, in doing so he’s giving some defensive coordinators headaches.
For the first time since the third game of his freshman season the Georgia Southern junior slotback is playing pain free.
Brown suffered a back injury at Coastal Carolina, but still managed to play in 12 of the Eagles’ 13 games and ran for 1,004 yards, earning Southern Conference Freshman of the Year honors.
Although he started at fullback last year as the season wore on it became more and more difficult to play. That enabled freshman Dominique Swope to move into the lineup.
Swope started six games, including the last four of the season, and ran for 255 yards in a playoff win over Old Dominion. He finished the season with 1,023 yards while Brown had 937.
Coach Jeff Monken and offensive coordinator Brent Davis made the decision to move Brown to slotback, a position they felt was better suited for his running style.
“I think Robert could be the best to ever play that position (at Georgia Southern),” Monken said at the time.
Brown carried the ball only six times in playoff wins over ODU and Maine, but he gained 103 yards. Still, the back prevented him from playing in the semifinal game with North Dakota State.
This spring, Brown was held out of camp, but the back did not respond.
Finally, in July he had back surgery. Six weeks later he was playing against the Dolphins, and will see action this week against The Citadel.
The Eagles open defense of their SoCon title against the Bulldogs at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium in Charleston, S.C.
“I’m fine now,” Brown said. “I couldn’t be better. I fractured one of my lumbars (vertebrae) at Coastal Carolina. It hurt, but it wasn’t too bad.
“I did what I had to do to get back out there. It’s all now in the past.”
Brown did not start against the Dolphins, and carried the ball only three times. However, he had 63 yards which means in nine carries as a slotback he has 169 yards, an average of 18.8 yards per carry.
Brown’s effort against the Dolphins also gave him 2,004 career yards, good for 12th place on the Eagles’ all-time list. Next up is Ricky Harris (1983-86) at 2,161.
“I’m not having back spasms now,” Brown said. “I don’t go out and worry about my back now. I can just focus on playing. I have peace of mind.”
Davis is happy to have a healthy Brown back on the field.
“He can do so many things with the ball in his hands,” Davis said. “He’s got great hands, maybe the best on the team. He catches the pitch, and he’s a good receiver. He wouldn’t catch any passes at B-back.”
While he sat out spring practice Brown also missed considerable time in preseason camp due to a groin injury. This slowed his development at slotback.
“He’s just got to get more reps at a position where you have to react quickly to the calls around you,” Davis said. “He will play faster and faster as he gets more playing time.
“He’s a dynamic player,” Davis said. “He can catch the ball on the perimeter, and he can run the ball inside out of the gun if we want to use him that way.”
The Eagles had 15 players run the football against Jacksonville, and the top four, led by Ezayi Youyoute’s 164 yards on 11 attempts, had 38 carries for 402 yards, an average of 10.6 yards per attempt. The other 11 ran 28 times for 149 yards, an average of 5.3.