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Russell on the O-line?
Eagles tested by scout team
082412 GSU FOOTBALL 02
Georgia Southern defensive end Dion Dubose, top, helps safety J.J. Wilcox celebrate a tackle in the backfield during Friday's Blue-White preseason scrimmage at Paulson Stadium. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

When Georgia Southern’s starters and backups suited up in blue and the scout team wore white Friday afternoon for a scrimmage at Paulson Stadium, there was plenty of scoring on offense and special teams, and the scout team was, for the most part, out gunned.

Things went about as expected — almost.

Many in attendance were surprised to see senior defensive tackle Brent Russell — the Southern Conference preseason Defensive Player of the Year — play an entire series at left guard on the offensive line.

"(Trevor) McBurnett is over there hurt, (Zach) Lonas is over there hurt, there’s some (offensive linemen) hurt," said GSU coach Jeff Monken. "We’ve got some freshmen, but realistically it’s a long shot to play for those guys that are way down the depth -- having them ready. Brent’s one of our best players, so we thought we would get him ready and see if he’d have any trouble if we put him in there."

He didn’t.

With Russell at guard and quarterback Ezayi Youyoute under center, the drive lasted only two plays, an eight-yard run by fullback William Banks and a 48-yard touchdown run by Darrieon Robinson. Robinson took a toss around the right side and weaved through traffic as Russell threw blocks down the field.

Playing offense, in fact, was Russell’s idea.

"It means a lot to us that the kid cares enough about winning and sees that there are a lot of injuries, and says, ‘Hey, I’d be willing to get in there and try it,’" Monken said.

Monken was said he wasn’t sure if Russell would see playing time on offense Saturday, Sept. 1 when the Eagles open the season at Paulson Stadium against Jacksonville at 6 p.m., and it would depend on the health of the rest of the line.

Regardless, it’s just another day at the office for Russell.

"I’m just trying to help the team," said Russell. "That’s every football player’s job. So I got in there and got some looks. Those guys on the offensive line are helping me along."

As for the defensive side of the ball, Russell was glad to see the scout team running Jacksonville’s offense.

"I love the option," he said, "but I’m tired of seeing it so much."

The scout team had its moments offensively. Scout-team quarterback Russell DeMasi passed for 138 yards, including a touchdown of 48 yards, one of white’s two scores.

"He is so important to our football team," Monken said about DeMasi. "It’s a thankless job, and unrecognized by most people, but certainly not by our staff and our team."

Other than DeMasi’s arm, most of the scoring was by the blue-team offense.

Another pleasant surprise for those in attendance was Dominiqe Swope, a sophomore fullback and the team’s leading rusher in 2011, returning to the field. Swope sat out of contact for two weeks with an injury and returned to contact for the first time Friday.

He carried the ball six times for 36 yards on the scrimmage’s opening drive, which resulted in a two-yard touchdown run by Youyoute.

"We were just trying to set the tone for the scrimmage," said Youyoute. "It was great to have Swope out there, the offensive line did a great job and we just executed."

Swope finished with eight carries for 63 yards.

"It felt great to come out here and work as a team," Swope said. "I’ve just been out here playing my part and teaching the young guys when I was out. Now, I’m back, and we’re just trying to get better as a team."

Junior quarterback Jerick McKinnon scored on a 94-yard keeper, and Youyoute threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to receiver B.J. Johnson.

Special teams got involved with the scoring, too. Johnathan Bryant and J.J. Wilcox each returned a kickoff for a touchdown, and linebacker John Stevenson blocked a punt from the white 21-yard line that was scooped up by linebacker Quaun Daniels and returned for a touchdown.

The scrimmage was the last before the Eagles face Jacksonville in the season opener.

"It feels great as we inch our way closer to the game," said Youyoute. "The anxiety just builds and builds, and we’re ready to go."

 

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