There are three main questions just about everybody has asked Georgia Southern football coach Willie Fritz since he was announced as Jeff Monken’s successor on Jan. 10.
“What kind of offense are you going to run, what’s my feeling about the traditions, and winning,” Fritz said, adding, “That last one really isn't really a question. More of a statement, I guess.”
Fritz has been taking interview requests, meeting people around GSU and Statesboro and getting acquainted with his surroundings, but one task has naturally topped the to-do list.
In fact, last week Fritz took the recruiting tour, just like the high school players he’s trying to attract to play football with the Eagles. It’s all just about as new to him.
“It’s a neat clean town and university,” Fritz said. “Last week I went on the visit, just like the players.”
Another group of recruits came in on Saturday morning for a visit. The recruiting process resumed on Jan. 16, when the dead period came to an end — just six days after Fritz took the job.
Fritz as of Friday has retained two former coaches — defensive coordinator Jack Curtis and wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Chad Lunsford — and is in the process of naming seven more assistants, many of whom will come from his staff at Sam Houston State, though he doesn't expect to announce the whole staff for at least another week.
Graduate assistants Chris Couch, Nate Baker and Josh Christian-Young are also being retained. The fourth grad assistant, Jaybo Shaw, will not return, Fritz said.
Fritz and the assistants have been hitting the recruiting trail hard since the dead period ended.
“It was late in the game, really,” Fritz said. “Most of the time with these transitions a coach comes in during early or mid December. I really took the reins on Jan 10. Getting a staff together, getting manpower out there on the road, finding out who the commits were —were they still firm? Were they guys we thought could play at the next level? We’re scrambling now, and we’re gaining ground on a daily basis, as we speak.”
Some of Fritz’s assistants admittedly won’t have experience with recruiting in Georgia.
“You’ve got to make decisions on your staff based on long term rather than short term,” Fritz said. “Part of that means you’re hiring people who are unfamiliar with the state and who to recruit, who are the coaches, and that kind of stuff.”
Fritz is confident Georgia Southern’s current roster will fit in with his spread, option-based offense. Fritz said the biggest change will be the blocking technique on the offensive line. And, there may be a few more called pass plays and a few more plays run out of the shotgun formation.
“I think a great back would like to receive the ball just a little bit deeper so he can anticipate his cuts a little bit quicker. Quarterback-wise, we’re not going to throw the ball 50 or 60 times a game, but he’s going to need to be accurate,” Fritz said.
Rising sophomore Kevin Ellison was the expected starter in 2014 before Monken’s departure. Ellison will be in competition for the job with Alfred “LA” Ramsby, Florida International transfer Favian Upshaw and Vegas Harley.
“All those guys will fit in well from what I’ve gathered and heard,” Fritz said. “They can all throw the ball a little bit, and I know they can run it.”
Ezayi Youyoute, who spent 2013 recovering from shoulder surgery, could be in the mix too, along with the potential 2014 recruiting class.
National Signing Day takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 5. Fritz has one advantage on the recruiting trail he’s never had in his coaching career — he’s recruiting to a Football Bowl Subdivision program.
“There’s only 120-something of these jobs in the country,” he said. “It’s an honor, and it’s an honor to lead Georgia Southern into the next part of its history.”
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.