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Eagles dealing with high expectations
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Georgia Southern quarterback Jaybo Shaw gets to work on the first day of spring practice in this Monday, March 21, 2010 file photo. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    When fans see their team come a win away from playing for a national title, expectations go through the roof.
    What about the team itself?
    For the Georgia Southern Eagles, who made a run to the 2010 Football Championship Subdivision semifinals before falling on the road to Delaware, the expectations never change.
    “Any time you put on the blue and white, there’s high expectations,” said rising junior slotback J.J. Wilcox.
    It’s no different than quarterback Jaybo Shaw, who transferred to GSU from Georgia Tech and became the go-to guy for the first time in his college career, starting 14 of the 15 games last season.
    “Any time you’re a quarterback or a competitor, there’s always going to be pressure,” Shaw said. “There’s always pressure when you have to lead a football team. I’m just going out there and trying to help these guys, and they’re doing the same for me.”
    The only difference to Shaw came about due to the results. The Eagles went 10-5 after finishing 2009 at 5-6.
    “We were so close last year, and it opened a lot of eyes,” said Shaw. “I think it shows us what’s holding us back. Hard work takes you a long way.”
    Second-year coach Jeff Monken acknowledged the difference a year makes, but said it doesn’t change anything as far as the team’s expectations.
    “Certainly expectations are up there. They’re probably higher than they were last year, and we didn’t have any expectations less than what we achieved last year. Our expectations were to win every game and to be national champions – as is everybody’s expectation,” said Monken. “If you go to any camp in the springtime and everybody’s got the same goal.”
    Still, the buzz outside the locker room has changed quite a bit.
    “You can feel the atmosphere on campus,” said Wilcox. “Everybody’s asking us when we start practice, when we play the spring game and stuff. We’ve got high expectations.”
    As far as the rest of the Southern Confernce, everyone else will have a better idea of what to expect against GSU.
    “Finishing the way we did, people will look at us a bit differently than they did last year,” Monken said. “We’ve run the offense and our defensive scheme for a year, so there aren’t a lot of unknowns. People will know what’s coming at them.
    “We have the same expectations for toughness and playing together and playing hard. Hopefully we’re getting that.”
    The approach among the SoCon teams won’t change, either.
    “This league has so much parity,” said Monken. “It’s difficult for any of the teams in the league to just kind of think, ‘Well, this week we can just line up backwards and we’ll still win.’ You’ve got to get prepared, and there’s a healthy respect between all the coaches in this league.”
    The Eagles resume spring camp today at 3:45 p.m. at Beautiful Eagle Creek.

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