Jayson Foster only had one season as a quarterback in Georgia Southern’s triple-option offense.
As a sophomore in 2005, Foster led the Eagles to eight wins, an upset over then-No. 1 Furman in Paulson Stadium, and one playoff game against Texas State that started an unfortunate chain of events, to put it mildly.
In 2012, GSU quarterbacks Jerick McKinnon and Ezayi Youyoute probably aren’t quite as talented as Foster was in 2005, but when you combine the two, the similarities start to show themselves.
The Eagles were 2-2 (1-1 Southern Conference) through four games in 2005.
They struggled in the opener on the road at Northeastern, needing an overtime field goal by Jonathan Dudley to slink away with a win, lost the home opener to McNeese State, lost at Wofford, then cruised to an easy win over Chattanooga.
The only difference in record is that the 2012 Eagles (3-1, 1-1) are a forced-fumble against Elon away from being 2-2 right now.
In 2005, the Eagles averaged 436 yards per game through the first four. This year, they’re averaging 432.
Through four games in 2005, they scored 31.5 points per game. So far in 2012, they’re averaging 35.
Through four games in 2005, Foster completed 39 percent of his passes (9 of 23) for 162 yards. In 2012, Youyoute and McKinnon have completed a combined 42 percent (10 of 24) for 157 yards. Foster had thrown one interception, same as Youyoute and McKinnon. This year, two of GSU’s three interceptions were thrown by backups Russell DeMasi and Matt Dobson.
In 2005, Foster had 100 carries for 471 yards through four games. Youyoute and McKinnon have already combined for 735 rushing yards, but to be fair to Foster, McKinnon has spent most of his time as a running back with Youyoute getting him the ball. When you look at the combined numbers after McKinnon took over at quarterback in the second quarter of the Samford game, you get 65 carries for 540 yards between the two. It’s still a rough comparison, but the theme is that the quarterback position in 2012 has run the ball much more efficiently through four games in 2012 than it did in 2005 under Foster. It has also negated a lot of its production with four more turnovers, so rushing is pretty much a wash, too.
The 2005 Eagles turned the ball over eight times through four games, including six fumbles. While the 2012 record is better, the turnovers have been worse, with eight fumbles lost and three interceptions.
I guess there’s two points to make from all of this.
First of all, using only these two examples, it’s fair to say that it isn’t unprecedented for the Eagles to have growing pains when they’re breaking in a new quarterback.
Foster will always be remembered as one of the most electric runners ever to wear a GSU jersey, and proved in 2007, running a completely different offense, that he could single-handedly win some football games. But his sophomore year got off to a pretty rough start before GSU won six of its next seven regular-season games.
Secondly, McKinnon and Youyoute have combined to salvage a pretty good start to the 2012 season, all things considered.
There’s no telling which one will emerge as "the guy" for the Eagles. Before the season started, coach Jeff Monken said both would play quarterback. So far, that’s held true.
Turnovers have been the biggest problem offensively, and lack of any type of passing threat has been a distant second, so it may come down to which one of them can run the offense without turning over the football.
Or, if the turnover problems persist with both, it may just come down to which one can bang out more 60-yard touchdown runs.
Foster was far from being the best option quarterback in Georgia Southern history, but he used his athleticism to guide the Eagles to a Top 10 finish in 2005, even after the meltdown at Texas State.
So far in 2012, Youyoute and McKinnon have combined to make a pretty good Jayson Foster. With the way the GSU defense has been playing, that just might be enough.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.