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Playoff run great for GSU's recruiting
120311 GSU FOOTBALL 05
Georgia Southern slotback Nico Hickey, right, beats Old Dominion's Nick Mayers for a 13-yard touchdown in this Dec. 3, 2011, file photo taken at Paulson Stadium.

    Georgia Southern’s run to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals for a second consecutive season has limited the Eagles’ recruiting efforts, but head coach Jeff Monken on Tuesday said the national exposure is “way more than a fair tradeoff.”
    Third-ranked and third-seeded GSU (11-2) will play fourth-ranked and second-seeded North Dakota State (12-1) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the Fargodome in Fargo, N.D. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
    In the other FCS semifinal, top-ranked and top-seeded Sam Houston State (13-0) will play fifth-ranked and fourth-seeded Montana (11-2) at 8 p.m. Friday. The game will be televised on ESPN.
    The national championship game is at 1 p.m. Jan. 7 at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas. It will be televised on ESPN2.
    “It’s tough,” Monken said. “We’re not on the road. We do a lot of work in the evenings by phone, calling recruits, calling prospects. We write a lot of letters. But I’ll say that I think having the opportunity to play in the playoffs, in the postseason, in the Final Four, playing on national TV, probably does more for us in terms of recruiting than going into a high school or into a kid’s home.
    “I think having a successful football program benefits our recruiting more than anything. It’s way more than a fair tradeoff to be in the playoffs rather than being out recruiting. And we know who we are. We recognize that there are a lot of prospects out there who are being recruited by the FBS schools, particularly the BCS schools who recruit our state and our recruiting areas, and those kids, quite frankly, if they’re being recruited by BCS schools, aren’t ready to commit to us yet anyway.
    “We’ll have plenty of time in January to get out there, and as the BCS schools start to head in another direction with some of those prospects, we’ll be there and we’ll do a good enough job keeping in touch with them and letting them know that we’re interested in them coming to Georgia Southern. We’ll get them on a visit and, hopefully, have a chance to get them to come to Georgia Southern. I don’t know that it affects us negatively.”
    FCS football teams are allowed 63 scholarships by the NCAA. Monken said GSU will have approximately 15 scholarships available to offer. He said the Eagles can split them into smaller increments.
    “Which is why we’re signing 20 kids with 15 scholarships, much like we have the last couple of years,” Monken said.
    Monken said GSU’s biggest needs are in the secondary and at linebacker.
    “We’ve got some pressing needs immediately — I wish we could do something about it for this weekend — in the secondary and at linebacker, so we’re going to have to help ourselves in those two areas,” Monken said.
    “And we may need to get some junior-college kids at those two positions to help us, some experienced guys who are more mature. We don’t go that route a lot but when there’s a need like we have, and again, with a limited number of scholarships, sometimes you have to do that. That’s an area.”
    Monken said GSU also will sign quarterbacks, a kicker for field goals and extra points, a kicker for kickoffs and a punter.
    “Obviously, getting quarterbacks that fit our system, not one but a number of quarterbacks in each class that we feel are a fit,” Monken said. “Typically, those guys can move, as Jerick McKinnon has, to play other positions. We’ve done that several times in the past.”
    Bison watch
    North Dakota State quarterback Brock Jensen, a 6-foot-3, 222-pound sophomore from Waupaca, Wis., is 199-of-291 passing (68.4 percent) for 2,267 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions.
    “He is very efficient,” Monken said. “They protect him and it reminds me a lot of what Alabama did when they would throw the football. They don’t put five wideouts out there a lot and force their five men in protection to pick up blitzes … they protect him.
    “They keep guys in there and give him time to find his receiver, give him time to get open. He makes a good throw or he throws it away, which is a good throw. An incomplete pass is certainly better than throwing one to the other team. And he doesn’t do that very often. They do a tremendous job in their passing game along with having a great power running game.”
    North Dakota State starting tailback D.J. McNorton, a 5-foot-10, 206-pound senior, has 887 yards and 12 touchdowns on 170 carries. His backup, Sam Ojuri, has 978 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns on 161 carries.
    North Dakota State, a member of the Missouri Valley Conference, averages 346.4 yards of total offense per game.
    Defensively, the Bison allow 322.8 yards of total offense, including 115.4 yards rushing per game.
    Brown, Swope chase milestone
    GSU running backs Robert Brown and Dominique Swope are attempting to become the first pair of Eagles rushers to gain 1,000 yards apiece in a season since Jermaine Austin (1,546 yards) and Jayson Foster (1,481 yards) did it in 2005.
    Brown, who has a team-high 937 yards on 136 carries, and Swope, who has 927 yards on 145 carries, would become the ninth pair in GSU history to accomplish the feat.
    Noell Barnidge can be reached at (912) 489-9408