When Jeff Monken and his coaching staff came to Georgia Southern in 2010, they found an unlikely player to put on the offensive line at right tackle. Brett Moore, a backup long snapper who had been out of football for a couple of years before coming to GSU, became an All-American at the position.
Moore has since graduated, but one of the players looking to fill his spot came from an even more unlikely place.
Raymond Klugey walked onto the team in 2011. He grew up playing soccer in the West-African country of Ghana.
Klugey, a 6-foot-3, 263-pound sophomore, moved to the United States six years ago and wanted to find a new sport to play.
"I wanted to try something new," said Klugey, who played his prep football at Norcross High School. "My coaches in Norcross said, "Well, you're pretty big, so why not try to play basketball or football?' I played soccer all my life, so I came out for football. It worked out."
Klugey fell in love with the game.
"There's no greater team sport in my eyes than football," he said. "Having 11 guys playing on the field and bonding, and knowing that everybody's job is just as important, it's a great feeling. One mess-up might mess up the whole thing. Everybody's counting on everybody to come together and play as a team. The more I played, the more I realized it was my passion." Monken found Klugey on a trip to Norcross with offensive coordinator Brent Davis. They were there to recruit another player, but NHS coach Keith Maloof pointed out Klugey, too.
"(Maloof) said, 'We've got this guy, he's got a lot of athletic ability, he's really raw, and he hasn't been playing football for long. We think he's going to turn into something,'" Monken said. "We got a chance to see (Klugey). We watched him walk out of the P.E. locker room into the weight room, and he was a good-looking kid."
Klugey ended up walking onto the team after the 2011 signing day. He is currently battling for the starting right tackle job with sophomore Garrett Frye, who saw time on the line as a true freshman in 2011.
Battle at center
Another position on the offensive line without a set starter is at center.
The position saw several different players in 2011, including William Maxwell and Brandavious Mann, who have since graduated.
Manrey Saint-Amour played the position as a true freshman last season.
"It was really a blessing from God just to come in and play as a true freshman," said Saint-Amour. "I got in there and my teammates helped me get better. Just getting the experience of fast play, the game experience, helped me so I can be ready and know what to expect."
Blake DeBartola, a senior, has played all five positions on the offensive line, and is also in the mix to start at center. If Saint-Amour wins the job, DeBartola looks to contribute elsewhere on the line.
"They both have work to do and they need to make improvements for us to feel really good about either one of them," said Monken, "but I think it can be a strong position for us, regardless of who's the center."
All three graduating seniors — Moore, Mann and Maxwell — will be hard to replace, but Zach Lonas (LG), Dorian Byrd (LT), Trevor McBurnette (RG) and Logan Daves (RG), along with Frye, Saint-Amour and DeBartola, all have game experience.
Monken describes the line on the whole as being somewhere between young and veteran.
"It's probably a 'sophomore' line," Monken said. "They're not freshmen and completely inexperienced, yet they're not seasoned veterans who have played three or four years and have it all down-pat."
More than anything, offensive coordinator Brent Davis is looking for the line to find an identity — something, he says, every good line needs to find.
"We like for the group to come together and figure out what their identity is going to be," said Davis. "That happens through trial and error through practice. ... The chemistry is different every year, even if you have the same players back."
The Eagles practiced twice on Monday, and will have today off before returning to fall camp Wednesday at 9 a.m. and 4:33 p.m.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.