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Our Take: Back to school means back to camp
2012 POY 133
GSU head coach Jeff Monken - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/file

Back to school means back to the gridiron.
    For some schools, that means putting a heavy focus on what went right in 2012. Others need to take a good hard look at what went wrong — and how to make it go right this season.
    The Georgia Southern Eagles, on the other hand have a moving target on where the focus ought to be.
    The Eagles are playing their transition year, and what that really means is that they don’t have a home.
    They can’t compete for a Southern Conference title, even though they’re playing a SoCon schedule. They can’t play for a Sun Belt title, because they don’t play a Sun Belt slate until 2014. They aren’t eligible for the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. They can't make it to a Bowl game.
    So, there’s really only one goal. Win all 11 games.
    That’s a lofty goal.
    They’ll have everybody in the SoCon gunning for them in their last year in the league, they have to beat Appalachian State, and they have to hold off much-improved squads at The Citadel, Chattanooga and Samford. Of course, there’s still Wofford. And Furman is a rivalry game, regardless of how far the folks in Greenville have allowed that program to slip.
    Oh, yeah, there’s also the “Gator Bowl.”
    Well, it’s not a bowl game, but it is the last game of the season, and it is against the Florida Gators.
    So it’s really up to the Eagles whether or not they want to exit the FCS with a bang or a whimper. A perfect record is a tall order, but 8-0 in the SoCon is a proper goal when GSU will likely be seeing most of the league for the last time.
    Last week saw the beginning of the “acclimation period” for prep football teams throughout Georgia with full-pad practices beginning on Aug. 1.
For most schools, the first game of the season is just 31 days away. That leaves just a month for Bulloch County’s teams to address the biggest keys to success this fall.
    The Statesboro Blue Devils put together another impressive season in 2012, but sputtered down the stretch. Statesboro was in the weekly Top 10 poll for much of the season, but entered the playoffs as a No. 3 seed before being dispatched in the first round.
    Statesboro is headed by returning quarterback Colin Chance. The Devils should be deep at most skill positions, but must improve on the offensive and defensive fronts. Offensive tackle John Underwood — who missed all of last season with an injury — will bring some much-needed bulk and stability to the trenches.
    The Devils will have to win the battles at the line of scrimmage if they want to go farther this season.
    Much like Statesboro, the Gators of Bulloch Academy have been bounced from the first round of the state playoffs in each of the last two seasons. Bulloch Academy is one of the smallest schools in Class AAA of the GISA, but has held its own since moving up.
    To continue their success, the Gators will need to find a new quarterback. Loy Waters is gone after two seasons of stellar play. His replacement will have to possess the ability — both athletically and intellectually — to smoothly run Bulloch’s option attack. Coach Ronnie Hodges is confident that he’ll find the right man for the job, though game experience from current candidates is lacking.
    The boys in Brooklet had a big turnaround last season, going from one win in 2011 to a respectable 4-6 mark that fell just short of earning Southeast Bulloch a playoff spot. Most major contributors return to the Yellow Jackets this season and another step forward could easily put the postseason within reach.
    SEB’s biggest concern needs to be consistency. Several of the Jackets’ 2012 losses came after digging themselves in an early hole. Quick starts and consistent week-to-week efforts should get SEB over that next hurdle.
    The best thing about fall camp for the Portal Panthers is that they should have enough players to line up a full offense and defense at practice.
    Injuries forced the Panthers to dress as few as 16 players for games last season, but the offseason has increased the roster size and — for now — most of the Panthers are at full strength.
    It will still be an uphill climb for the Panthers, but a healthier 2013 will help them get back on the right track.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.
    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.