Matt Dobson doesn’t look like a defensive leader on paper.
He came to Georgia Southern as a highly-touted quarterback, but after the job he did blocking and laying into ball opposing ball carriers as a freshman in 2012, the move to safety was hardly a surprise.
Dobson was involved in the pass breakup on the final play against Florida in a 26-20 win last season, and he started 10 of 2013’s 11 games.
Now, a junior among a young group of GSU defensive backs, Dobson is a leader.
“He really does a great job out there of being vocal,” GSU defensive coordinator Jack Curtis said. “Communication is so important out there, and he’s smart. He does a great job of knowing where everyone’s supposed to be lined up, and he gets them there.”
While the defense won’t be changing the scheme too much, the word that keeps getting thrown around by players and coaches has been, “aggressive.”
“I want Jack to call a more-aggressive game,” first-year GSU coach Willie Fritz said.
Along with a slight change in mentality on the defensive side is a change of pace on the offensive side. While the Eagles have run some no-huddle over the years, the pace at which the offense gets plays off is certainly keeping the defense on its toes.
“It’s a lot more intense, a lot faster paced,” Dobson said, adding that the offense doesn’t look all that different than the spread option of the past four seasons. “The option stuff is pretty much the same, but there’s a lot more passing.”
The way the Eagles practice is also different. Bags pads and tackling dummies are finding their way on the practice field more and more. Fritz said using those instead of people allows the defense to practice full speed without the risk of injury due to contact.
“Part of our job is getting them to the dance,” Fritz said.
Dobson isn’t the only player with experience. Safety Deion Stanley has plenty of experience under his belt and Antonio Glover got some reps when Stanley got injured in 2013.
Steve Williams got some work on special teams after transferring to the program a year ago.
Cornerbacks Lavelle Westbrooks and Darius Safford to graduation, but Valdon Cooper and Nick Wright bring starting experience and transfers Darrius White and Caleb Williams will transfer to the program from junior college in the fall.
The Eagles will practice today at Beautiful Eagle Creek beginning at 4:45 p.m., and will have their first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday at Paulson Stadium, beginning at 9:30 a.m.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-4908.