When first-year Georgia Southern offensive coordinator Doug Ruse talks about his football philosophy, it’s easy to imagine the words coming from the lips of Jeff Monken, Paul Johnson, even Erk Russell.
“Regardless of scheme,” Ruse said after practice on Saturday, “when it’s all said and done, if you block people, if you tackle people, and you take care of the ball, you’ve got a pretty good chance.”
If you ignore the offensive line and you watch GSU run its offense under Ruse and first-year head coach Willie Fritz, it all looks familiar — a passing game built on top of an option-based running game.
The only real fundamental difference for the offense is in the trenches.
“The backfield action and the option that we’re running is very similar to the option they’ve been running around here for a long time,” Ruse said. “(On the offensive line) it’s more of a zone scheme as opposed to more of a man scheme they’re used to around here since the program started.”
It’s all about “muscle memory,” Ruse said, and senior Garrett Frye, a 6-foot-4 lineman who came into the program weighing 225 pounds and now tips the scales at 290, is learning that instead of firing off the ball into an opponent, it’s all about reading, reacting and controlling the other team’s defensive line.
“Last year we were on our toes most of the time,” Frye said. “Now we’re on our heels, in control instead of firing into people. We’ve got to read the play, stay on our heels and take control of the defensive line.”
“The footwork and the tempo they’re coming off the ball is all polar opposite of what they’ve been taught,” Ruse added. “You have to show more patience coming off the line of scrimmage.”
Frye is one player offensive line coach Alex Atkins, who came to GSU from Chattanooga, isn’t worried about.
“Frye does a great job off the field, and that automatically helps him do a great job on the field,” Atkins said.
Fritz isn’t worried about about the players picking up on the concepts. His biggest concern was alleviated when he saw the team he inherited in action.
“The part you’re worried about is are we athletic enough? We certainly are,” Fritz said.
“The great thing about it is that what these guys were doing is physical,” Atkins added. “They know how to work and they know how to block.”
The offensive line returns 16 players from 2013, of which 12 are upperclassmen, including senior starters Frye, Manrey Saint-Amour, Logan Daves, and Trevor McBurnette.
“We’re all buying into it,” Frye said about the new system, “and we can’t wait to see what the season brings.”
When fall camp begins in August, the Eagles will be joined by five more offensive linemen from the 2014 signing class. Ryan Northup, an early enrollee, is already practicing with the team.
The Eagles return to spring practice today at 2:45 p.m.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.