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Two deep takes shape
Georgia Southern quarterback Jerick McKinnon leaves Central Arkansas defenders in his wake on a 57-yard touchdown run to open the scoring in this Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 playoff game at Paulson Stadium. Freshman Kevin Ellison is expected to be McKinnon's backup in 2013. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/file

Georgia Southern Depth Chart

    1—Jerick McKinnon, Sr.
    4—Kevin Ellison, Fr.
    6—Dominique Swope, Jr.
    32—William Banks, Sr.
    26—Tray Butler, Jr.
    28—Devin Scott, Jr.
    23—Johnathan Bryant, Sr.
    17—Brandon Thomas, Jr.
    9—Zach Walker, Jr.
    85—Montay Crockett, Fr.
    81—B.J. Johnson, So.
    80—Kentrellis Showers, Jr.
    58—Garrett Frye, Jr.
    73—Maurice Hunt, Jr.
    76—Trevor McBurnette, Jr.
    63—Darien Foreman, So.
    75—M. Saint-Amour, So.
    60—Andy Kwon, Fr.
    62—Zach Lonas, Sr.
    74—Logan Daves, Jr.
    71—Dorian Byrd, Sr.
    53—Jeff Ward, So.
    7—Matt Dobson, So.
    25—Robert Brice, Fr.
    29—Deion Stanley. Jr.
    16—Antonio Glover, So.
    30—Valdon Cooper, Jr.
    6—Darius Safford, Sr.
    18—Lavelle Westbrooks, Sr.
    21—Nick Wright, Jr.
    15—Carlos Cave, Sr.
    14—Tay Hicklin, So.
    40—Edwin Jackson, Jr.
    10—Josh Rowe, Sr.
    38—Kyle Oehlbeck, Sr.
    15—Carlos Cave, Sr.
    90—Josh Gebhardt, Sr.
    93—Rashad Williams, Jr.
    96—Blake Riley, Sr.
    99—Jay Ellison, Fr.
    91—Justice Ejike, Jr.
    92—Jonathan Battle, So.
    52—Javon Mention, Sr.
    46—Rafeal Hardee, Fr.

KO     47—Alex Hanks, So.
PK    31—Connor Tierney, Fr.
P    49—Ryan Nowicki, So.
KR    23—Johnathan Bryant, Sr.
PR    26—Tray Butler, Jr.

    The Georgia Southern Eagles hope they’ll have plenty of chances to play some new faces on Saturday when they open the 2013 season against Savannah State at Paulson Stadium.
    While starters at quarterback, running back, and offensive line have all but locked up their positions, there are plenty of spots on the field that will see more than a few players looking to earn a spot on the two-deep roster.

Special teams
    Georgia Southern missed 14 of 22 field goals attempted in 2012, and three of the Eagles’ four losses came within the margin of a field goal or less.
    Needless to say, GSU will want to find continuity in the kicking game, and they’ll want to do it in a hurry.
    Currently, there is a different kicker listed atop the depth chart at each position — place kicker (redshirt freshman Conner Tierney), punter (sophomore Ryan Nowicki) and kickoffs (sophomore Alex Hanks) — but odds are the depth chart will change, if not from game to game, quarter to quarter.
    Punter Luke Cherry is in the mix, as well as true freshman Younghoe Koo.
    “You’ll probably see more than one guy at each one of those positions,” head coach Jeff Monken said.
    Senior Johnathan Bryant looks to return kickoffs, and junior Tray Butler is the primary punt returner.

    Though the Eagles have five quarterbacks on the roster — seven including converted safety Matt Dobson and converted slotback Ezayi Youyoute —senior Jerick McKinnon and his backup, redshirt freshman Kevin Ellison, have locked up the one and two spots.
    Florida International transfer Favian Upshaw has taken some snaps with the offense, and redshirt freshman Vegas Harley has worked primarily with the scout team.
    Highly-touted freshman Alfred “LA” Ramsby will miss the season with an injury.
    Youyoute is also expected to miss the opener with an injury.
    The slotback positions are top-heavy with upper classmen, but Monken hopes to see playing time from freshman Matt Breida at slot.
    “He can run great,” McKinnon said about Breida. “We’ve thrown him the toss a couple of times, and he’s shown off his sprint. He’s a hard worker with the blocks, too. We’re expecting a lot from him this year.”
    Backing up last year’s one-two punch of fullbacks, Dominique Swope and William Banks, will be James Dean, a sophomore who was originally moved to linebacker before fall camp started. Also in the rotation will be freshmen Cam Lewis and Chris Jordan. Sophomore Nardo Govan is expected to miss the opener with injury.
    Zach Walker, a junior wide receiver, is also likely to miss the opener. Junior Kentrellis Showers and a pair of underclassmen — B.J. Johnson and Montay Crockett — are in the mix.
The top six offensive linemen are all seniors and juniors, and true freshman Andy Kwon has impressed enough to back up junior Manrey Saint-Amour at center.
    “I mostly (practice) with Manrey,” McKinnon said, “but Kwon’s picking it up. It’s hard coming in as a freshman, but he’s picking it up well and working hard, and the coaches see that.”

    Linebacker may be the thinnest position on the field for the Eagles, with the loss of Antoine Williams and Patrick Flowe to injury and Dean to fullback. There are still three seniors, Josh Rowe, Carlos Cave and Kyle Oehlbeck in the group, and junior Edwin Jackson has earned a nod at middle linebacker. The coaches will look for more depth on Saturday.
    “We’ve got some young guys we’re going to play over there, some talented young kids,” Monken said. “Whether or not they’re ready to play linebacker is yet to be seen. We’ll find out.”
    Dobson and Deion Stanley look to start at safety, and the trio of Valdon Cooper, Lavelle Westbrooks and Nick Wright bring a good bit of experience to the cornerback position.
    Though the defensive line lost Brent Russell and Dion DuBose to graduation, seniors Josh Gebhardt, Blake Riley and Javon Mention anchor the front. Junior Justice Ejike will look to pick up at nose tackle where Russell left off.
Kickoff for Saturday’s game is slated for 6 p.m., at Paulson Stadium.

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