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The Fritz era begins
Georgia Southern head football coach Willie Fritz gives some pointers during defensive drills during the first spring football practice on Tuesday at Beautiful Eagle Creek. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

GSU Spring Practice schedule
Thursday, 4:15 p.m.
Friday, 4:45 p.m.
Saturday, 9:30 a.m.
Sunday, 2:45 p.m.

Tuesday, April 1, 4:15 p.m.
Thursday, April 3, 4:15 p.m.
Friday, April 4, 4:45 p.m.
*Sat., April 5, 9:30 a.m.

Tuesday, April 8, 4:15 p.m.
Thurs. April 10, 4:15 p.m.
Friday, April 11, 4:45 p.m.
*Sat., April 12, Noon

Tuesday, April 15, 4:15 p.m.
*Thursday, April 17, 7 p.m.

*Paulson Stadium

    Willie Fritz uses a voice recorder to take notes as he watches practice.
    On Tuesday at Beautiful Eagle Creek — the first Georgia Southern practice of the spring and Fritz’s first since taking over the program as the head coach — the recorder was busy.
    It’s the method Fritz uses to make note of observations on techniques and fundamentals of individual players, specific of drills and anything else that may need to be addressed, and there was a common theme as the Eagles began learning a new system for the fourth time in the last nine years.
    “Today a lot of it was just practice organization,” Fritz said after practice.
    With all the changes the program is undergoing —  a new offensive system, a new coaching staff and, not least, the transition from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Sun Belt Conference, a little disorganization is to be expected.
    “You can do it on a board,” Fritz said, “you can walk it and talk it as much as you want, but until you get out there on the field it’s hard to get the guys doing exactly what you want. But we’ll get better. It’s the first day.”
    “It’s a great opportunity for all of us, and we’re adjusting to it,” added sophomore quarterback Kevin Ellison. “There’s people moving to different positions and a lot of other things going on — it’s kind of chaos right now — but the coaches are doing a good job of making everybody’s prepares.”
    Ellison, who split starts at with Jerick McKinnon in 2013, threw for 756 yards and two touchdowns and, most notably, led the offense throughout the Eagles’ 26-20 win over Florida to end the season, is talking it all in.
    “It’s great to be able to throw the ball a little bit more instead of being in the triple option the whole time,” Ellison said. “We’re getting more experience for everybody.”
    There were a lot of passing drills on Tuesday, and one of the bright spots was GSU’s group of wide receivers, a good sign considering the team attempted only 102 passes through 11 games in 2013.
    “We’ve got some guys who are exciting and dynamic receivers,” Fritz said. “Zach Walker had a big catch over there on the sidelines, and I know he’s made a lot of those plays here in the past. That’s an area we’re going to work on more (in the spring) than we will in the fall, because there hasn’t been as much emphasis placed on the passing game.”
    That’s good news for the defense, too. The scheme won’t change too much from 2013 and defensive coordinator Jack Curtis adds some consistency to the transition.
    “The offense is throwing the ball some, and that’s going to enable us to put in more of our defense earlier than what we have in the past,” Curtis said. “In the long run it’s going to pay off and it’s been a good thing.”
    Curtis wasn’t ready to evaluate his defense, yet.
“The defense is usually ahead of the offense,” he said, “but I don’t know if we are. I’ll have to look at the film.”
Along with film, the Eagles will have plenty of notes from Fritz’s recorder to use when they return to the practice field on Thursday at 4:15 p.m.
    “I’ll go and transcribe my notes, and when we have our staff meeting in the morning we’ll go through it all,” Fritz said.
    Scheme aside, Fritz is really looking for one thing this early in the process.
    “The main thing we’re looking for is effort,” he said.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-4908.