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New look in the backfield
GSFB Thornton Chaz 0731 WEB
Georgia Southern running back Chaz Thornton carries the ball during the Blue/White game on April 12. (CARROLL GAMBRELL/GSU Athletics) - photo by Georgia Southern AMR

    Last year in the season opener, nine different Georgia Southern football players scored a rushing touchdown.
    It’s safe to say, with first-year coach Willie Fritz, that’s not going to happen again.
    While while Fritz’s offense incorporated plenty of option in the running game, the number of players involved in the running game — not including quarterbacks and the occasional pitch to a wide receiver — will go way down.
    “We’re still looking to find a guy that we think is a top-flight, FBS running back,” Fritz said. “We’ve seen flashes from three or four guys, but we haven’t found it yet. It’s still yet to be determined who are the guys that are going to be starting and playing a lot.”
    The offense will still have formations with two- and three-running back sets, but if a feature back emerges from the group, he’ll carry the bulk of the load.
    “It all depends on who you’ve got back there and how good he is. But if one guy’s definitely better than the other guys, he’s going to play more than the other guys,” Fritz said. “I’ve done a lot of three-running back sets in the past when I’ve had three really good backs. If that’s the case, we’ll do it.”
    The battle for playing time has appeared to be centered around redshirt freshman Chaz Thornton and junior-college transfer Ken Thomas, though Devin Scott comes in with the most game experience at GSU. He had 17 carries for 94 yards last season as a junior.
    “They’re all a little bit different,” Fritz said. “Devin’s got great speed, Ken has good speed too, but he’s more of an inside guy. Chaz is probably a combination between the two.”
    Thornton was on the scout team in 2013, something he feels helped a lot preparing for what would ultimately be a new offense.
    “Running everybody else’s offense will teach you how to read a defense,” Thornton said. “I was on with the scout team last year, so now I can read a defense.”
    Ean Days, who transferred to GSU from Illinois in 2012, hasn’t played since then due to an injury suffered that fall and finds himself in the mix as well.
    It’s been a long recovery.
    “My hip started bothering me, and for a while we couldn’t figure out what was going on. I wasn’t playing at the time, but I was trying to fight through it and was getting treatment, and it wasn't getting any better,” Days said. “They figured out I had two bones colliding into one another in my hip. So it’s been a long time coming back.”
    Days, a fullback under the old system, has had to learn a lot of new techniques when it comes to blocking and route running.
    “Coming from the old offense, being a B-back, we didn't do much except run the ball,” Days said. “We were the tough guys. Now our role changes. We run routes, block — you’ve got to be open to new things.”
    Matt Breida and Brandon Thomas are also holdovers who are in the mix, as well as nre freshman recruits joining the team when camp gears up after summer.
    “It’s going to be a good competition in the fall,” Fritz said.
    Spring camp wraps up this morning at 8 a.m.

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