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Eagle QBs guide the flock
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Ezayi Youyoute, left, and Jerick McKinnon practice their pass drops during practice Friday. Both have taken snaps with the first-string offense during the Eagles' fall practices.

Mention quarterback battles to Georgia Southern quarterbacks coach Mitch Ware, who first began coaching the Eagles in 2002, and he'll answer the question before it's even asked.

"Chaz and Trey," Ware said after Saturday's fall camp session at Beautiful Eagle Creek.

Ware is referring to 2002, when GSU was looking for a replacement for quarterback J.R. Revere, who led the Eagles to back-to-back I-AA (now Football Championship Subdivision) semifinal appearances and a national title in 2000.

That battle came down to Chaz Williams and Trey Hunter.

The Eagles are facing a similar situation in 2012 with junior Jerick McKinnon and sophomore Ezayi "Izzy" Youyoute. In 2002, Williams became the clear-cut No. 1, but this time plans are a bit different — McKinnon and Youyoute are both at the top of the list.

"There was a speed-level difference with Chaz and Trey," said Ware. "Chaz was faster. They were both good quarterbacks and great kids. They were great leaders. It's the same with these two guys, but they're a little closer together than (Williams and Hunter) were."

So far, three days into fall camp, Ware said the plan is to have both quarterbacks take snaps with the ones and twos, and both have even played a little bit of running back.

No pressure, right?

"That's what the coaches want us to do, and that's what we're going to do," Youyoute said. "As far as feeling pressure, we live up to the standards of the coaches. Anybody else, we really don't pay attention. We just want to live up to the coaches' expectations."

Like Williams and Hunter, Youyoute and McKinnon each have their strengths.

"They're both fast, they're both good in space. They're both strong and athletic. I'd say Izzy is probably a little better at throwing the ball and Jerick is probably a little more powerful as a runner," said GSU head coach Jeff Monken. "Izzy's a good runner and Jerick is certainly capable of throwing the ball, he did it plenty in high school, but they're different, every athlete is different. They're both valuable at (the quarterback) position."

McKinnon agrees.

"I'd say Izzy's more of a slashing type of guy. He likes to juke around. I do too, but as far as that goes, I try to out run people or power over them, stuff like that," said McKinnon.

With the option offense comes the need for plenty of quarterbacks. Both Youyoute and McKinnon spent time at quarterback in relief of Jaybo Shaw in 2011, and Russell DeMasi, now a senior, saw time in the 2010 playoffs against South Carolina State.

Freshman quarterbacks Vegas Harley, Matt Dobson and Kevin Ellison need all the veteran leadership they can get — especially when it comes to the option.

"It's just a different style," said McKinnon. "Usually when you see quarterbacks pitch the ball, they like to follow their pitches. We're taught to get downhill with our pitches. There's a learning curve, but they'll get better as they go along."

The Eagles will return to practice today at 3:20 p.m., and will practice in full pads for the first time Monday at 2:45 p.m.


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