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Losing 'The General'
Eagles look to future of quarterback position
Georgia Southern head football coach Jeff Monken, right, and then-quarterback Jaybo Shaw confer on the sideline against Samford in this Statesboro Herald file photo. Both left the shadow of Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech to restart the tradition of the triple option offense at Georgia Southern in 2010, and Monken will be without Shaw for the first time as the Eagles' head coach. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    He wasn't the flashiest player to ever take the field for the Georgia Southern Eagles.
    In 2011, he was fifth on the team in total rushing yards (420), and dead last in yards per carry (2.5), but if it weren't for quarterback Jaybo Shaw, the Eagles may not be coming off back-to-back trips to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals, and the certainly wouldn't have been able to make such a seamless transition to the option offense brought back by then-first-year head coach Jeff Monken in 2010.
    That kind of leadership will be hard to replace, but Monken, now entering his third year as the Georgia Southern head coach, will have to do just that as the Eagles prepare for Thursday's first fall practice.
    "Our whole team learned a lot from Jaybo Shaw, about the way you're supposed to play and lead and be a team guy," said Monken, who has narrowed Shaw's replacement to junior Jerick McKinnon and sophomore Ezayi "Izzy" Youyoute. "I hope they'll be like that, too."
    Shaw, like Monken, left Georgia Tech in 2010. It was no secret that he came to GSU to become the starting quarterback.
    "What made that whole dynamic special was, one, I knew him," said Monken. "I knew what he was about, what kind of attitude he'd have and what kind of effort he would put in. I knew how much our guys would like him. He became one of the group really fast. He also had game experience (at Georgia Tech), getting a couple of starts, and he came in as a very confident player. It's tough to replace a guy like that."
    But he'll have to.
    McKinnon and Youyoute have some experience with the option offense, much like Shaw did when he transferred to GSU.
    "Right now, we've got two quarterbacks in a very similar situation," Monken said. "They, like Jaybo, know that it's their time to shine. That it's their offense, and they need to go with it."
    In 2011, McKinnon scored touchdowns as a quarterback, a running back and a receiver. He also intercepted a pair of passes in the second round of the playoffs against Maine, and also hit the quarterback twice and recorded a pair of solo tackles as a cornerback.
    Youyoute, on the other hand, has played most of his snaps as a backup quarterback. He passed for 35 yards on six attempts and also rushed for 310 yards on only 26 attempts as a redshirt freshman in 2011.
    They're both in good hands with quarterbacks coach Mitch Ware who, in his second stint with Georgia Southern, is entering his seventh year at GSU.
    "The kids that play quarterback for us have the benefit of having Mitch Ware as a coach," said Monken. "He's coached in this offense, he knows that position and he does a great job coaching those kids."
    Fall camp begins Thursday at 2:45 p.m. at Beautiful Eagle Creek.

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