If Darius Eubanks was a U.S. Marine he would be on a recruiting poster.
“He’s a good-looking, physical kid,” Georgia Southern head coach Jeff Monken said. “We don’t have a lot of guys that look like that.”
Eubanks, a 6-foot-2, 222-pound junior bandit linebacker, is one of the anchors of an Eagles defense that had a complete turnaround in Saturday’s 35-23 win over Maine in the Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals.
Georgia Southern’s defense came up with three interceptions, one by Eubanks, and limited the Black Bears to 295 yards and 16 points after being embarrassed the previous week by Old Dominion in a 55-48 win.
The Monarchs had 560 yards of total offense, and the 48 points were the most points Georgia Southern had ever allowed at Paulson Stadium, as were Tyler Heinicke’s five touchdown passes.
The Eagles (11-2) will face another high-powered offense at 2:30 p.m. Saturday when they meet North Dakota State (12-1) at the Fargodome in Fargo, N.D. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
With 38 career starts, Eubanks is one of the Eagles’ most experienced defenders. He started 10 games as a true freshman after being recruited out of Thomson High School in Augusta.
A standout three-sport athlete, it was assumed Eubanks was going to Kentucky to play football when he surprisingly signed with Georgia Southern, which had also expressed interest in him as a basketball player.
“No, no, I never gave consideration to playing basketball,” Eubanks said. “I was a good basketball player, but I was committed to football all along.
“My mother put a pair of shoulder pads on me when I was 8 years old, and it was football all the way for me.”
As for the Wildcats, the Southeastern Conference school never really had a chance. Georgia Southern’s tradition and history of winning, along with being close to home, far outweighed playing at a school whose football team plays in the shadow of its basketball program.
“Kentucky crossed my mind,” Eubanks said. “But, at the end of the day, I liked what I saw here. I have never regretted that decision.
“Now I’m in position to play for a national championship for the second time. The run we’ve been on the last two years is amazing. I’m blessed …not many guys get a chance to play for one, and now it’s happening for us two years in a row.”
Eubanks said due to the distance to Fargo, N.D., his father and step-mother will be missing only their second Georgia Southern game. The other was when the Eagles played at South Dakota State his freshman season.
“Being close to home means a lot,” Eubanks said. “I’ve had great family support.”
Eubanks and the Georgia Southern defense will be charged with trying to slow down a North Dakota State offense that averages 32.2 points per game, and 346.4 yards per game.
Bison sophomore quarterback Brock Jensen has completed 199 of 291 passes for 2,267 yards and 12 touchdowns. Sophomore Sam Ojuri leads the Bison in rushing with 978 yards, and D.J. Norton has 887.
“They’re a very balanced team,” Eubanks said. “They’re a very good team as you can expect of anyone playing at this time of the year.”
In his three years starting, Eubanks has been a model of consistency. He was Georgia Southern’s fifth leading tackler as a freshman. He was second last year, and currently ranks third with 62 tackles to go with two interceptions.
“He’s a quiet kid,” Monken said. “He’s not vocal, but he provides leadership by the way he plays.”
Eubanks agrees with his coach’s assessment.
“I try to be a leader by my actions,” Eubanks said. “We have one rule, and that’s do right. I try to do that every day, and you don’t do it by talking. I try to set an example for the younger players.
“To play linebacker you have to be tough and aggressive. A lot of linebackers are not as silent as I am.”