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GSU DBs have a learning curve
080612 GSU WESTBROOKS 1
Georgia Southern safety Lavelle Westbrooks, center, is congratulated by teammates Deion Stanley, right, and Kule Oehlbeck after knocking down a pass intended for receiver Mitch Williford during practice on August 6. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

This weekend's Paulson Stadium activities
Saturday
Meet the Eagles, 9 a.m.
Scrimmage, 10:30 a.m.
Monday
Day One, 9 p.m.

    Only half of Georgia Southern’s starting secondary has ever played a down of college football at their position.
    Lavelle Westbrooks, who was moved to cornerback from safety after spring camp, started some games at the position in 2010, and Deion Stanley became a starter at safety after a career-ending injury to Derek Heyden in 2011.
    Then there’s Valdon Cooper and J.J. Wilcox, the secondary’s two big question marks.
    Cooper, a sophomore, transferred to GSU in the spring after seeing time on special teams at Illinois in 2011, and Wilcox, a senior, was a wide receiver in 2009 and an A-back in 2010 and 2011.
    “The lack of experience is concerning, and the lack of depth is concerning,” said head coach Jeff Monken. “We’re not deep at any position (in the secondary). If we were, we wouldn’t have new faces there.”
    All three starting cornerbacks from 2011 are gone — Laron Scott and Hudson Presume to graduation and Riyahd Jones, who is no longer enrolled at GSU — and it came as a surprise to Westbrooks when he was moved back to the position.
    “In the spring I was still at safety, so I had no clue,” Westbrooks said. “Coming into summertime, they said I was making that transition back to corner to help out at boundary, and I was willing to help out any way I could.”
    Westbrooks split starting duties at corner as a freshman in 2010 with Carson Hill before making the move to safety in 2011, a move he said gave him a better grasp of the defense.
    “Moving from safety to corner was an easier transition than moving from corner to safety,” said Westbrooks, “but the move to safety allowed me to know where my help is in different coverages. It made the game slow down a little bit.”
    Cooper did not play on the Illinois defense in 2011, but his improvement at corner since spring when he transferred in has impressed the GSU coaches.
    “He’s probably the one that’s improved the most since spring,” said defensive coordinator Jack Curtis about Cooper. “We saw some flashes and thought he had a good chance to be a pretty good player for us, and he’s come into fall camp and done extremely well.”
    Wilcox, who make a name for himself offensively by using his athleticism both in his running and his blocking, has made a smooth transition to safety, and with Stanley bringing some starting experience to the safeties and Darius Eubanks moving to the position from linebacker, the Eagles added size in the defensive backfield.
    “We’re going to be a little bit bigger back there than we were last year,” Curtis said. “Getting some bigger bodies back there lets Deion (Stanley) play at nickel. He’s basically a corner with great cover skills, so that’s going to help us.”

Lending a hand
    Georgia Southern students went through “Operation Move-In” Friday, and the football team lent a helping hand.
    With all the new students on campus moving in, they could certainly use it.
    “It’s just a lot of stuff, so I think it’s great that the whole campus gets involved,” Monken said. “(Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management) Teresa Thompson sent out a campus-wide email inviting the whole community to help. Our guys just go out there and offer any help that they can. It’s just an opportunity for us to serve this campus.”
    Friday’s practice was held in the morning to open up the afternoon for the volunteer efforts.

Eagles meeting the fans
    The annual “Meet the Eagles” will be held this morning at 9 a.m. at Paulson Stadium’s Bishop Field House.
The football, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball teams will be on hand, and fans can pick up posters and schedule cards. Fans will also meet GSU mascot GUS and the Eagles cheerleaders.
    “We want to meet as many of our fans as we can,” said Monken. “They’re awfully important to us.”
    Fans are invited to stay at Paulson for a 10:30 a.m. football scrimmage, which will conclude fall camp.

'Day One' set for Monday
    Back for a second-straight year, Day One will cap off the first day of Georgia Southern University classes.
    The combination pep rally and orientation, set for Aug. 20 at 9 p.m. on the student side of Allen E. Paulson Stadium, will include instruction on Eagle traditions and cheers and speeches from President Brooks Keel, football Coach Jeff Monken and men's basketball coach Charlton
Young.
    Gates open at 8 p.m. and the first 2,000 students will receive free food and the next 2,000 students will receive a True Blue towel.
    The event is open not just to students but alumni, members of the community and Georgia Southern employees.

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