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Fritz to sign GSU's first FBS class

GSU Signing Day Event
    Wednesday, 6 p.m. (Doors open at 5:30 p.m.)
Paulson Stadium, Bishop Field House
Open to the public

    New Georgia Southern football coach Willie Fritz and his staff have had less than a month to put together the 2014 recruiting class.
    Not a lot of time, especially considering Wednesday’s National Signing Day marks GSU’s first signing class as a Football Bowl Subdivision program.
    “We had to go out and find guys who we feel good about, and guys already committed to Georgia Southern. We didn’t really have as much of an opportunity to evaluate as you’d like to have, but we feel good about this class,” Fritz said.
    Fritz had some help recruiting for both sides of the ball in Georgia, a state in which he’s never coached, having retained defensive coordinator Jack Curtis and recruiting coordinator Chad Lunsford.
    Curtis has been at GSU since 2011, and Lunsford recruited Georgia for Georgia Southern and in his previous role as Auburn’s director of scouting from 2009-2012.
    “You’ve got to have people who understand the state of Georgia, and Chad understands the state of Georgia,” Fritz said. “He was in a recruiting role when he was at Auburn and he’s really brought a lot to the table here. I’m really excited about having him on our staff.”
    The biggest concerns for GSU are on the defensive side of the ball, where cornerbacks Lavelle Westbrooks, Javonte Martin and Darius Safford, linebackers Josh Rowe, Kyle Oehlbeck, Carlos Cave and Michael Spaulding, and defensive linemen Blake Riley and Josh Gebhardt were all lost to graduation.
Westbrooks, who was invited to the NFL combine and participated in the 2014 Senior Bowl, and Safford, were both starters at corner, and Rowe, Mention and Gebhardt were all four-year starters. Oehlbeck and Riley were two of the Eagles’ three top tacklers in 2013.
    Offensively, the Eagles lost QB/RB Jerick McKinnon, running backs Johnathan Bryant and William Banks and offensive linemen Dorian Byrd and Zach Lonas.
    Though the Eagles return a crop of slotbacks, the slot receiver position is one Fritz said he will recruit heavily, as he uses more prototypical receivers in his offense than the hybrid receiver/running backs used in the slot by GSU in the past.
    However, upon reviewing tape from the Eagles’ 2013 season, Fritz found that former GSU coach Jeff Monken’s offense had more in common with his than he previously thought.
    “Coach Monken was under center a lot, but he was also in the shotgun and the pistol a lot more than I thought he was, so there are quite a bit of similarities,” Fritz said.
    When GSU was a Football Championship Subdivision program, FBS players were allowed to transfer in without losing a year of eligibility, and that will change now that the program has joined the FBS. Fritz said he’d like to avoid taking junior-college transfers as much as possible.
    “I’d rather develop the guys, have them in the program for four or five years, but there’s times when you have an immediate need at a position,” he said.
    Fritz will introduce his 2014 signing class Wednesdayday at 3 p.m., at a press conference in the Parrish Football Center.
    A Signing Day event, open to the public, will take place at Paulson Stadium’s Bishop Field House at 6 p.m., where the new coaching staff will show highlight videos of the new recruits.
    Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

    Herald videographer Josh Aubrey contributed to this report.