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Talkin option with SoCon coaches

    Georgia Southern isn’t the only Southern Conference team thinking option in 2010.
    When each of the league’s coaches took some time to talk about the upcoming season during the preseason SoCon teleconference Tuesday, the fact that one-third of the league’s offenses will be running the triple option was a hot topic.
     “It’ll be a tough little deal,” said Furman coach Bobby Lamb about the conference’s three option teams. “Certainly Georgia Southern’s got a quarterback coming (Georgia Tech transfer Jaybo Shaw) that’s run it before. Wofford will have (an experienced quarterback) and of course Citadel will have a young guy just beginning to do that. It will be difficult to defend as it always is.”
    Georgia Southern is no stranger to the option philosophy, which it ran throughout the program’s modern era until 2006.
    The Citadel, on the other hand, thought it was time to try something new this year.
    “It’s amazing how many 6-foot-1, 260-pound linemen you go to visit in high school and you don’t end up taking because they’re not big enough,” said Bulldogs’ coach Kevin Higgins. “I think at The Citadel, recruiting is obviously so important. With the triple option, you can recruit players that aren’t being recruited by other programs. They’re tough, they’ve got a good work ethic, and that’s only going to help you.”
    Then there’s Wofford, which has been doing it all along and doesn’t plan to change anything any time soon.
    “We’re going to do a great job of not really being focused on what other people try to do,” said Wofford coach Mike Ayers. “Just what we do and how we do it.”
    First-year Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken has been an assistant in the system since 1997, coaching under Paul Johnson at GSU, Navy and Georgia Tech before returning to Statesboro as the program’s head coach.
    He’s heard from all of the option’s critics.
    “We hear it all,” he said. “It’s a high school offense, it’s a Wing-T offense, it’s a Wishbone offense. It’s throwback, old-school, old-time, old-fashioned. And it is. But it still works. I think (Johnson)’s been the one that’s proved that to people more than any.”
    The other SoCon coaches seemed to agree that having three programs running variations of the tricky offense has its advantages.
    “Once you play one, you prepare, you come back to the next one and now your scout team has a good feel for it,” said second-year Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman. “You see things you did good, you didn’t do good. It has its advantages and its disadvantages because it is such a tough offense to defend.”
    Ayers is no stranger to what gets the offense going.
    “If you’ve got a good quarterback and you’ve got a good fullback,” he said, “you’ll have a chance.”

SoCon star power?
    Terrell Hudgins? Gone. Andre Roberts? So long. Armanti Edwards? No longer a SoCon threat.
    The Southern Conference collectively said goodbye to its three biggest stars after the 2009 season saw them graduate - each finding a home in the NFL - and now the league has some room for some of its other big names to step into the limelight.
    Scott Riddle, Elon’s record-setting quarterback, spent three years playing second fiddle to Hudgins, but if preseason voting is any indication - Riddle was selected as the league’s preseason offensive player of the year - it’s his chance to prove he can get it done without the best wide receiver in the FCS.
    “Preseason awards don’t really mean nothin’ until after the season’s over. It is a great honor,” said Riddle, “but there’s a lot left to prove.”
    Replacing all-everything quarterback Edwards at Appalachian State will be no easy task, and as of now, sophomore DeAndre Presley and redshirt-freshman Jamal Jackson are neck-and-neck. They can both run, but despite their inexperience won’t shy away from throwing the football in coach Jerry Moore’s offense.
    “I’ve got no problem throwing the football. I think the thing that we’re concerned with now is where do you throw it?,” Moore said. “They can both throw the ball well. They are both tough, hardnosed runners. DeAndre may have more speed than Armanti has. It‘s not like we don‘t have something to work with.”

No respect
    The media and coaches of the SoCon agree. As indicated by the preseason polls, Georgia Southern is the seventh-best team in the league.
    Not that it matters.
    “It shows me that we’ve got a lot of people to prove wrong,” said sophomore defensive tackle and preseason, first-team, All-SoCon selection Brent Russell. “I like it that way, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, personally. I like to be the underdog, and I think people like to root for underdogs. … I guess we have to prove ourselves all over again, and that’s fine by us.”
    Added Monken: “It doesn’t matter where we’re ranked right now. It doesn’t matter where anybody’s ranked right now. It’ll matter in November when the season’s all done and we get through the conference and play every conference game. Where we’re ranked at that point, it will be much more of a concern of mine.”

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