It’s somebody else’s turn.
When Jeff Monken took over the Georgia Southern football program in 2010, a group of sophomore offensive linemen — Brett Moore, William Maxwell and Brandavious Mann —became the vocal leaders of the group.
Now that they’ve moved on, it’s Dorian Byrd’s turn.
“We know we lost a couple of key players, but they’re gone,” said Byrd, a junior. “We can’t get them back, so we’ve got to step up and play the next play.”
The team’s two senior offensive linemen, Chris Gray and Blake DeBartola, both have plenty of experience, but only Byrd, a left tackle, has been a fixture at the same spot of the line since the beginning of Monken’s tenure at GSU.
And now, offensive coordinator Brent Davis is looking at Byrd to take the next step.
“I’m waiting for Dorian to step up into a leadership role and become the kind of player he’s capable of becoming, help show the younger guys how it’s done,” Davis said.
Finding out how good the offensive line really is doesn’t usually happen until someone else is lined up on the other side of the ball.
“It usually doesn’t happen at practice. It usually happens in a game,” said Davis. “They realize they have a huge impact on the outcome of the game. We talk to them all of the time about having ownership in what they do. They make a difference because we run the football. We’ve talked about how if you play really well in a passing offense and the quarterback doesn’t have a good day, sometimes you don’t have a very good chance to win. For us, we feel like if we can establish a new line of scrimmage, establish the fullback and the running game, we’ve got a good chance to win.”
Though Byrd came into the program when it was installing the option offense, he says the learning process never stops.
“The triple option is a difficult offense, so you’ve got to go to work every day and you can’t take a day off,” said Byrd. “The guys before us, they won six national championships because they worked every day.”
With kickoff less than two weeks away, Byrd can’t learn fast enough.
“Dorian, in a lot of ways, is still growing, still maturing as a player,” Monken said. “Although he’s started 20-something games, he’s still got a ways to go in terms of leadership.”
Byrd came into the program from Westside, Macon. His high-school teammates, running back Robert Brown and linebacker Carlos Cave, came to GSU with him, so Byrd came in under the radar.
Because Moore got the accolades — he was named an All-American twice —and Maxwell and Mann had both seen playing time in 2009, Byrd quietly went about his business at left tackle. While there were other lineman at GSU and other players from his own high school getting the press, Byrd, who is now listed at 5-foot-11, 267-pounds, used his athleticism to sneak to the top of the depth chart.
“We know we’re not going to get a 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5 guy who’s athletic. We just don’t get that kind of size here, so we’ll sacrifice size to get the more athletic guy. It’s because (Byrd) is athletic and can move, he was able to start here as a freshman,” Monken said.
Now, it’s time for Byrd to get vocal.
“It’s important to have a guy that can kind of rally the troops,” Monken added. “I think every position needs a strong leader from within.”
The Eagles will practice today and Thursday at 3:45 p.m. at Beautiful Eagle Creek. The final scrimmage before the season kicks off will take place Friday at Paulson Stadium at 4:15 p.m.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.