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QB situation leaves Eagles' season prospects filled with doubt
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In the movies, a team is always ready to rally around the backup when the quarterback goes down.

In the movies, the next man up has total control of the offense and total faith from his teammates.

In the movies, there is always a way forward to success.

But there is a lot that gets left on the cutting room floor in the movies. And that seems to be the case with Georgia Southern as well.

Instead of some dramatic injury to a starting quarterback, the Eagles were left without their offensive leader a full month before the season began when word came down that Justin Tomlin would be out for two games due to academic issues - the second time in six years that a presumed starting quarterback for GS would suffer that penalty for that particular reason.

And when the gaze was turned to the rest of the quarterback depth chart, the Eagles found themselves looking at a true freshman, a redshirt freshman and a transfer that hadn’t taken a snap since high school.

If this were the movies, it would be the perfect setting for some high-level theatrics and drama that result in win after win. Instead, it has led to one high-wire-act victory and a loss that saw the Eagles looking absolutely clueless on offense while even the most casual observer could sympathize with a GS defense that was exploited and pushed far beyond its breaking point.

Football is a tough sport. No matter the position, anyone and everyone putting on a helmet is at imminent risk for injury every time they do so. 

So, it stands to reason that - on a team that prides itself on being a running team that has to put its quarterback in peril - the Eagles should have never allowed themselves to fall into Saturday’s undesirable situation.

With Tomlin in the penalty box and Cam Ransom in the trainer’s tent following a stellar start, there had to be another option other than running a hodgepodge of plays that had no chance of ever producing more points and/or a victory.

Maybe that sorry situation would be acceptable if the Eagles were in the middle of some sweeping offensive transition that depended on one guy to spearhead a changing offense until more help could arrive.

But - in case you’re new to Georgia Southern football - finding a new guy to run an option offense isn’t exactly a novel cause.

Through good times and bad, the Eagles were able to rely on Shai Werts to lead the option attack for the last four years. Some Eagle fans think he did the best he could with a roster that was in flux. Others think the team could have achieved even higher reaches if he had done more.

Either way, the real value given by the Eagles’ former quarterback was that he was almost always on the field and rarely had to subject his team or the fans to the alternative.

And that makes it all the more bewildering that the Eagles weren’t able to set up a competent line of succession behind him after his time was done.

Tomlin saw plenty of time - and a few starts - over the last two seasons as Werts’ backup, but was ruled out for the first two games of the season for academic reasons. The next man up was starter for the Gardner-Webb game Amare Jones who, despite showing plenty of promise as a ball-carrier, seemed ineffective as a potential passer or threat to pitch on an option. 

Ransom also had some highlights in the season opener and earned the start against Florida Atlantic. Primarily a passer in his prep days, Ransom seemed to fit the mold of a GS quarterback and led an early touchdown drive, but then suffered a leg injury.

From there, Georgia Southern turned to stints of Sam Kenerson and Jones behind center - both equally ineffective - before Ransom returned to fire a few hopeful passes in a game that had already gotten out of hand.

So much of college football coaching is mythicized. 

While no one doubts the long hours and dedication put into each season, there is also the idea that such efforts all build towards the ability to be prepared for anything and everything that might befall a team so that they can still come out on top.

The emerging facts of the 2021 Georgia Southern season are that - despite knowing that Werts was departing - the team not only allowed Tomlin to stumble into ineligibility, but also followed his spot on the quarterback depth chart with a litany of others who all bring disparate skillsets that don’t mesh easily with each other or the overall offensive scheme.

While the offensive line and running backs for the Eagles have looked stellar at times, each change in quarterback has produced diminishing results across the board. What has looked like a dynamic and cohesive offensive unit at times needed only an injury and the final couple of quarters on Saturday to devolve into a predictable slog, with Florida Atlantic seemingly ignoring the weaknesses and keying in on the one strength of a given quarterback to completely shut down the entire drive.

Many coaches across many sports will preach that the goal of their team is for those pieces of each team to be greater than the sum of their parts.

The Eagles have had highs and lows from all aspects of their team through two games, but one theme seems to be shining through.

Without a healthy and stable plan for the quarterback position - regardless of who that might be - Georgia Southern will not add up to what it should be. 

And unless something changes quickly, 2021 is looking like a pretty lean year at the box office.