Ga. Southern (1-0) at The Citadel (1-0)
Saturday, 6 p.m.
Radio: 103.7 FM
Back in 2000, when the Georgia Southern Eagles played in their third national championship game in a row, lining up in the shotgun was unheard of.
Now, the Eagles do it. So does Georgia Tech, whose head coach Paul Johnson was at GSU during that run of three title games and two-straight championships.
And The Citadel (1-0) who hosts the third-ranked Eagles (1-0) Saturday at 6 p.m. in Charleston, S.C., runs the option out of the shotgun, too.
It figures, since Citadel offensive coordinator Bob Bodine and GSU offensive coordinator Brent Davis coached together, first at Georgia Southern, then at VMI, where the shotgun started showing up in the Keydets’ offense.
“We learned it the same way,” said Davis, referring to their time together in Statesboro under Johnson.
Wofford seemed to revolutionize the offense when they started running from the gun while Johnson was at GSU. It made sense to try and give the opponent some new looks and something extra to prepare for.
“When you’re in the same league, playing each other year after year, I think maybe people get used to what you’re doing,” Davis said.
There are plenty of reasons to add shotgun offense to an option playbook. You can give the defense new looks and angles, you can expand pass protections and you can use running backs with different styles at different place behind the line of scrimmage.
Georgia Southern added the gun in 2011 for one reason.
“For us? Frankly, it was watching Wofford give everybody in our conference fits,” said GSU head coach Jeff Monken, who was formerly Johnson’s assistant at GSU, Navy and Georgia Tech. “When they started out, they were running the option just like we did. They have added a lot of shotgun stuff and been very successful doing it, and we could just see the problems people were having, so we added formations.”
The Citadel added the gun this year, and what the Bulldogs do is the same as what GSU does — almost.
“The base play is the same, and everything works off the base play from there. It’s the triple option,” said Davis. “There’s a lot of different ways to run it, and a lot of auxiliary plays to help it. Some of our auxiliary plays are different than what they do, but the principle is the same.”
When the teams met in 2011, it was nearly a wash. The Citadel missed a field goal as time expired as the Eagles won, 14-12.
Similarly, when GSU played Navy in 2010, the Midshipmen won 13-7.
The Eagles face their own option offense, which scored 58 points in the season opener last Saturday against Jacksonville, each season during spring and fall camp, preparing the defense to face other option teams.
“I’m definitely not going to say we’re not going to be prepared,” said GSU defensive tackle Brent Russell. “I think we’ve got one of the best offenses in the country, and seeing it every day in practice helps us a lot.”
But defensive coordinators know better than to forget about the big-play capability of the option.
“If you don’t make the right call or do the right thing, it could be a touchdown,” said GSU defensive coordinator Jack Curtis. “The Citadel put a couple on us real quick last year. We’ll do everything we can to prevent big plays on Saturday.”
Russell is well aware of the Citadel’s offensive capabilities. The Bulldogs scored a ton in a 49-42 loss to Appalachian State in 2011, and opened the 2012 season with 49 in a win over Charleston Southern.
“Their quarterback’s a pretty good player, they’ve got a good B-back, and their slotbacks are some of the best in the country,” said Russell.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.