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Eagle O-line gets down to business
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Georgia Southern offensive tackle Chris Gray gets down and dirty with his fellow offensive linemen on the blocking sled during practice last week. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Chris Gray has seen it all.
His brother Sean started his college football career as an offensive lineman at Georgia Southern under Mike Sewak in 2004 and moved to fullback when Brian VanGorder took over the program in 2006.
Chris came to GSU as an offensive lineman in Chris Hatcher's first class in 2007, and has gone full circle as he and the rest of the offensive line have begun transitioning back to the offense that started it all.
"He's been here through the old and the new, and he's still down here going to grad school," said Gray about his brother Sean. "He's helping me learn and keep that tradition, talking about the old times, how it used to be and how we're going to get that back."
The linemen themselves feel like transitioning to the option-based offense is a lot harder than any changes happening on defense. The guys on the other end of the trenches always have the same goal.
"The defense, they run to the ball - see ball, hit ball," said Blake DeBartola, who is currently listed as the No. 1 center but is expected to play elsewhere on the line. "We're doing our best and we're playing hard, and that's all we can do right now. It's a different mentality. You've got to change the way you're thinking and attack on every play."
In other words, the o-line has switched from "protect" to "attack" mode.
"The hardest part is there's definitely a lot more running which is something we're not used to," Gray said. "It's definitely a good thing, actually running down the field and attacking the defense instead of sitting back. It's fun to be more physical like that."
Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Brent Davis won't use the fact that most of these guys were recruited for pass blocking stop the Eagles' offense from doing what the coaches want it to do.
"I told them that we're not going to use the excuse of this is new and this is a transition and we don't have the right fit as offensive linemen for not being good," Davis said. "We're going to take the guys that we have and fit them into our system to make them the best players that we can. They're going to buy into it, I know they are, and we're going to be successful. It just takes time."
"The stance is different from what we're used to," said DeBartola. "There's more attacking, and overall I think everyone on the offensive line is excited for the change and optimistic for the future."
Something Davis has told his line to help with motivation is that he feels the five up front have a much more active role on the team. He feels like if the offensive line has a good day, so will the guys carrying the football.
"I told them that as offensive linemen in this offense, I think you have more ownership," Davis said. "I think if you're in a passing offense and you grade out 90 percent and the quarterback has a bad day, you don't really have any bearing on the success of your team. As an offensive lineman in this system, if you open the hole, cut off the back side and create a new line of scrimmage, you're going to have success. I think it's something that helps them take pride in what they do."
The Eagles have a day off today before returning to the banks of Beautiful Eagle Creek Thursday at 3:45 p.m. Nine sessions remain before the culmination of spring practice - the Blue/White game at Paulson Stadium on April 17.

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