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Competition begins
Eagles start spring practice today
092411 GSU FOOTBALL 10
Georgia Southern's Jerick McKinnon, right, congratulates fellow quarterback Ezayi Youyoute after Youyoute's 83-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against Western Carolina at Paulson Stadium in this Sept. 24, 2011, file photo. McKinnon rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another in the Eagles' 52-20 victory. McKinnon and Youyoute will compete for the starting quarterback job when spring practice begins today. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

GSU Football
Spring Practice Schedule
Today — 3:45 p.m.
Friday — 3:45 p.m.
Saturday — 9:30 a.m.
Monday — 3:45 p.m.
Tuesday — 3:45 p.m.
March 30 — 3:45 p.m.
March 31 — TBA (scrimmage)
April 2 — 3:45 p.m.
April 3 — 3:45 p.m.
April 5 — 3:45 p.m.
April 7 — TBA (scrimmage)
April 9 — 3:45 p.m.
April 10 — 3:45 p.m.
April 12 — 3:45 p.m.
April 14 — 1 p.m. (Blue & White Game)

    Georgia Southern football head coach Jeff Monken said he is eager to see how many of his players will embrace leadership roles when the Eagles begin spring practice at 3:45 p.m. today on the practice fields near Beautiful Eagle Creek.
    “We’re permitted 15 practices,” Monken said of NCAA rules. “That includes the spring game, and we’ll use all 15.”
    GSU’s Blue & White Game is at 1 p.m. April 14 at Paulson Stadium. The Eagles return eight starters on both the offense and defense.
    “We lost 22 seniors and we’ve got to find some guys to replace them,” Monken said. “One of the things we will look for this spring is the guys that will fit into leadership positions. We lost some kids off of last year’s team, who graduated, that provided some great leadership for us. So we’ve got to find some guys that will do that. That’s going to be key for us.”
    GSU finished last season with an 11-3 record, advancing to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals for a second consecutive season. The Eagles won their first Southern Conference championship outright since 2002, and their first league title since 2004, when they shared with Furman.
    The Eagles will stretch at 3:45 p.m. today, and practice at 4 p.m., Monken said. GSU will have the same schedule Friday. The Eagles will practice at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
    GSU’s top priority is replacing quarterback Jaybo Shaw, who graduated. Ezayi “Izzy” Youyoute and Jerick McKinnon are considered the frontrunners for the job. Prince McJunkins will compete for the backup job.
    “Jaybo (Shaw), graduating, did such a great job for us,” Monken said. “I’m very confident in the guys that we have. We’re not sure which one is going to be the starting quarterback.”
    Youyoute, a rising sophomore, played in eight games last season. He was 4-of-6 passing for 35 yards. Youyoute ran 26 times for 310 yards and three touchdowns.
    McKinnon, a rising junior, played in 13 games last season. He was 3-of-6 passing for 37 yards and a touchdown. McKinnon ran 80 times for 537 yards seven touchdowns. McKinnon also played at slotback and at cornerback.
    “Whichever of our guys is the starting quarterback, we’ll move some of the others to another position so that we can get them on the field,” Monken said. “Jerick (McKinnon) and Izzy (Youyoute) are two of our most athletic players, and we want to find a place for them to play.”
    Special teams is another priority for GSU. The Eagles must replace Adrian Mora (field goals, extra-point attempts), Billy Greer (kickoffs), Charlie Edwards (punter) and Carter Jones (long snapper).
    “Everybody is interested in who the quarterback is going to be but I’m as interested in who the kicker, the punter and the long snapper are going to be,” Monken said.
    Monken said rising junior Luke Cherry will compete for punting duty. Walk-ons Cole Allison, of North Forsyth, and Cody Clark, of North Oconee, will compete for the placekicking job.
    “We’re going to add some guys in the fall, but I’m hopeful that Luke Cherry, who has been in our program the last few years, can at least be the punter. And I think he can,” Monken said. “I think he can be a very good punter. He’s got a strong leg. He’s probably got, and that’s including the guys in the program that graduated, the strongest leg of anybody we have.
    "But those guys with game experience, they’re hard to beat out. I’m hopeful Luke can be our punter. And he may end up having to do all three. We’ll get a chance to at least evaluate him (in the spring).”
    The secondary is another area of concern. GSU lost senior cornerbacks Laron Scott and Hudson Presume, as well as freshman cornerback Riyahd Jones, who is no longer enrolled. Safety Michael Butler’s eligibility expired. Monken said safety Derek Heyden, who suffered a neck injury last season, will not return.
    “That was a decision that he and his family made along with the recommendations from the doctors,” Monken said of Heyden. “They felt it was time to move on and not play football anymore just with the risk of being injured again. We lost some important guys on the back end, obviously, losing Derek Heyden in the third ballgame was a real loss for us. But also the graduation of Laron Scott, Hudson Presume, Mike Butler, all those guys who played and had a lot of starts under their belt. We’re going to miss those guys.”
    Newcomers to watch this spring include linebacker Tevin Thomas, who transferred from Copiah-Lincoln Junior College in Mississippi, and cornerback Valdon Cooper, who transferred from the University of Illinois, where he played in 10 games last season.
    “We’re anxious to see both of those guys in the spring,” Monken said.
    On the offensive line, GSU must replace tackle Brett Moore, center William Maxwell and Brandavious Mann.
    “We’re going to miss those guys up front," Monken said.
    On the defensive line, GSU must replace seniors John Douglas and Roderick Tinsley. Deion Stanley is back at safety. Lavelle Westbrooks also is back at safety.
    Running back (Dominique Swope, Robert Brown, J.J. Wilcox, Darreion Robinson) is a strength along with wide receiver (Kentrellis Showers, Johnathan Bryant and Zach Walker).
    “(Running back) is one position where we lost only one player that played significant number of minutes and that’s Nico (Hickey),” Monken said.
    Monken has two new assistants: linebackers coach Kevin Corless and tight ends coach Sean Saturnio. Lamont Seward has moved from wide receivers coach to running backs coach, and Brett Gilliland will coach the wide receivers.
    Monken said spring practice is critical to GSU’s success.
    “We get a lot out of it,” he said. “We make a lot of improvements in the spring. We find a lot out about some younger guys who have developed, and it just really sets the tone for the following season, so we’re anxious to get back out there.”