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Rainy day welcomes fall camp for Eagles
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Georgia Southern's Emmanuel Orange tosses a ball while relaxing with teammates during a lightning delay on day one of Georgia Southern fall football camp Thursday. Practice was eventually moved to Hanner Fieldhouse. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    The Georgia Southern Eagles have been chomping at the bit to strap on their football helmets and get out on the practice fields.
    They'll have to wait another day.
    Rain and lightning forced the Eagles inside Hanner Fieldhouse on the first day of fall camp Thursday.
    "This is the best alternative we've got," said GSU coach Jeff Monken about opening practice indoors. "It was more of a meeting, kind of walking around and going through assignments. It's beneficial from a mental standpoint, but not what we need to get ready. Hopefully we'll get some dry weather tomorrow."
    For senior defensive lineman Brent Russell, the Southern Conference preseason Defensive Player of the Year, it just wasn't the same.
    "We pride ourselves on being able to go out there in the heat, in the Statesboro weather when it's 100 degrees, and making it through," said Russell. "Coming inside's kind of a letdown."
    Monken's primary concern in the early going is watching the 28 true freshmen on the 2012 roster and seeing how they acclimate to college football.
    "I'm always anxious to see the freshmen, the new guys that haven't been in a college uniform before, just to see how they react and how they respond to all the pressure and all the information they get," Monken said. "There's a lot of young kids in this group who I think have a chance to be really good players."
    The veteran players had their eyes on the freshmen, too.
    "It was more of a mental day," said junior quarterback Jerick McKinnon, who is listed alongside sophomore Ezayi Youyoute as the team's starting quarterback. "Freshmen, their minds are everywhere, and they're thinking a lot. Everybody's telling them, 'Don't worry about it, it's going to get easier.' But everybody's just happy to be out here playing. It's been a long
time."

New look, new jersey
    Senior J.J. Wilcox had never played running back before Monken came to Georgia Southern and moved him to A-back from wide receiver in 2010.
    After spring camp, Wilcox was moved to another new position, and he practiced as a defensive back for the first time with the team Thursday.
    "He's a fun player to watch when he's on offense. He's very passionate when he's carrying the football and very physical. He's a good football player, one of our best," Monken said about Wilcox. "Our hope is to get the best 22 players on the football field offensively and defensively, and I think he's one of our best 22 players."
    Along with the change of position came a new jersey. The Eagles' offense practices in white, while the defense wears blue.
    "I got picked on a lot today in practice, switching from white to blue. The the offensive coaches said they were coming at me," said Wilcox.
    The Eagles will practice again today at 2:45 p.m. at Beautiful Eagle Creek, weather permitting.

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