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GSU begins spring camp
031313 GSU FOOTBALL 01
Georgia Southern quarterback Jerrick McKinnon, right, goes over a play with slotback Robert Browns on the sidelines during the first day of Spring football practice Wednesday at Beautiful Eagle Creek. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    More of the same.
    That was the feeling as the Georgia Southern Eagles took to the banks of Beautiful Eagle Creek on Wednesday for the first day of spring camp.
    More of the same, because for the third camp in a row, the Eagles (10-4 in 2012) are coming off of a run to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals, where their season came to an end. It’s a tough feeling to shake.
    “Very, very disappointing,” said quarterback Jerick McKinnon, a rising senior. “The first year, with the record we had, it was a great run with those seniors. The second year, we thought we had a good chance to make it back and win that game. It was the same outcome. Then, after that, pretty much everybody was like, ‘Third time’s a charm. It’s got to be the year, gotta be the year.’”
    It wasn’t. The Eagles lost to North Dakota State, 23-20, and the season came to an end in Fargo, N.D., for the second year in a row.
    McKinnon’s just glad to be preparing for another season — his last at GSU.
    “Oh yeah,” he said, “it’s been a long time coming.”
    Most of the offensive weapons will be back on the field. McKinnon will return to the quarterback position, as well as rising junior Ezayi Youyoute.
    Dominique Swope (1,246 yards, 16 touchdowns) will return to the fullback spot, and Johnathan Bryant (9.2 yards per carry) returns as the leading slotback.
    Seven players who scored a rushing touchdown in 2012 will return to the offense.
    Zach Walker (9 catches, 342 yards, 3 touchdowns) returns along with Kentrellis Showers as the team’s leading receivers.
    With so much talent returning to the skill positions, spring camp is like riding a bike.
    “Just getting back into the groove and making sure things are going smooth,” McKinnon said. “We’ve got a lot of great players coming back, and some new names you’ve probably never heard of.”

Back in the middle
    It wasn’t easy for middle linebacker Josh Rowe to sit on the sidelines last season, coming up academically ineligible in 2012.
    His was perhaps the biggest smile on Wednesday at camp.
    “When you sit out a full year and you’re not able to compete with your teammates, it’s tough,” Rowe said. “We’ve got a great bunch of guys who build you up, and just being out here with them, it’s crazy. It’s exciting.”
    Rowe was replaced by Kyle Oehlbeck and true freshman Patrick Flowe at MLB last season. The pair combined for 89 tackles.
    “Man, they stepped up,” Rowe said.
    Rowe, who has also seen three playoff runs fall short in the semifinals, is optimistic about what 2013 holds.
    “If we get better by an inch every day, hey, the sky’s the limit,” he said.
NOTES: Quarterback Matt Dobson, a rising sophomore, has been moved to safety. Montay Crockett was moved from wide receiver to slotback, and Antwione Williams moved from linebacker to safety. … Several Eagles are injured for spring camp. DE Javon Mention (shoulder/knee), TE Cody Rediger (hernia), OL Diego Rodriguez (shoulder), OL Logan Davies (shoulder), Swope (shoulder), DL George Osunde (Achilles) and CB Lavelle Westbrooks (hernia) are injured during camp. Monken said some would return before the end of camp. McKinnon suffered a broken left hand in the offseason but is practicing, and Youyoute is foregoing spring camp to focus on academics. … 40-year coaching veteran Clifford Yoshida joined the Georgia Southern coaching staff in the offseason. Yoshida will coach the defensive line. … The Eagles will return to spring practice today at 3:45 p.m.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.