The biggest storyline throughout fall camp for the Georgia Southern Eagles has been the battle between junior Jerick McKinnon and sophomore Ezayi Youyoute for the starting quarterback role.
Saturday morning, when fall camp came to an end with a scrimmage at Paulson Stadium, everybody answered the question the same way.
"I have no idea," said Youyoute, who had a 57-yard rushing touchdown in the scrimmage. "Me and Jerick are just working hard out here, and whatever happens, happens. We’re brothers and we’ll be happy for each other whatever happens."
"As of now we still don’t know, and we probably won’t know up until the first game," McKinnon said, "but the coaches will make the best decisions for the team."
So, has there been any separation between the two quarterbacks?
"I don’t think so at this point," said head coach Jeff Monken.
The plan for now is to have both play quarterback. There will be plenty of opportunities for each player on the offense. Both have taken snaps at A-back, too, though McKinnon has spent more time as a running back during camp.
As for the rest of the team, position battles will become clearer when the coaching staff forms the scout team and the Eagles resume practice on Tuesday, the day after classes resume.
"There’ll be some positions on the field where there will be a lot more rotation during the game than there will be others," said Monken. "At this point we kind of know who’s in the mix. Next week we’ll separate guys onto the scout team and that’s when you say, ‘Here’s the guys we need to have play, and here’s the guys we need to help the other side get ready."
The scrimmage itself saw most of the scoring come from all over — senior quarterback Russell DeMasi threw a 20-yard touchdown pass, his only attempt of the scrimmage, to junior slotback Tray Butler, freshman James Dean scored on a 50-yard run and freshman linebacker Emmanuel Orange intercepted a pitch, ruled a fumble, and returned it 27 yards for a defensive score.
The first scrimmage saw zero touchdowns and a pair of field goals from freshmen Cole Allison and Alex Hanks.
"The offense played good at times," McKinnon said about Saturday’s scrimmage, "and we’ve just got to learn how to finish drives."
With fall camp ending, one of the deepest positions heading into camp is the defensive line, where Monken is happy with all of the first- and second-string players.
"We’re just a tight-knit defensive line," said junior defensive end Terico Agnew. "We eat together, we joke together, we play around together. We hope that connection is going to help us make a bigger stamp on the field this year."
"Our defense has really stepped it up this year," agreed nose tackle Blake Riley. "We’ve all played together."
Meeting the fans
Before Saturday’s scrimmage, the Georgia Southern football, volleyball and soccer Eagles took part in, "Meet the Eagles," a yearly tradition that allows fans to meet the players, get autographs and receive posters and schedule cards.
It also gives the Eagles a chance to show their appreciation to the community.
"Their support and the atmosphere they give us is great," said senior J.J. Wilcox, who participated in the event for the last time in his GSU career.
"It’s always great to meet the fans," Youyoute added. "Throughout the year, we don’t get to do that as much, and we had an opportunity to meet everybody today. We have the best fans in the world, and I love ’em."
Rowe to return to practice field
Senior linebacker Josh Rowe entered fall camp academically ineligible, and the first attempt to appeal to the NCAA did not go through, Monken said Saturday.
Rowe will return to the team for practice Tuesday, but will not be an active member of the team.
The Eagles will continue the appeals process, and Rowe will have the opportunity to play in 2013 if the NCAA appeal process is unsuccessful.
"If he’s ineligible, than he’ll practice with us this year and won’t be eligible to play. He has not used a redshirt year. He could use his redshirt year and still have one left," said Monken.
Junior Kyle Oehlbeck and senior John Stevenson are two players likely to start at middle linebacker for the Eagles.
Fall classes begin at GSU Monday, and the Eagles will return to practice Tuesday at 3:45 at Beautiful Eagle Creek.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.