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Walk-ons always in the mix
081711 GSU WRs 2
Georgia Southern wide receiver Kentrellis Showers keeps the ball from hitting the ground by trapping it against his helmet during seven-on-seven passing drills Wednesday. - photo by Associated Press

    One of the first things Jeff Monken did when he came in as the head coach at Georgia Southern in December of 2009 was look back on his years as a GSU assistant.
    From 1997 until 2001, the Eagles made it to the semifinals four times, played in three national title games and won two national championships.
    Monken asked a staff member to get the numbers of all the guys who played in those national championships, and what he saw surprised even him.
    He realized just how many of those players walked on to the program.
    “Georgia Southern has had a history of guys like that, and I think that’s one of the neat things about this program,” said Monken. “It’s always been like that here.”
    Even last season, when the Eagles made it to the semifinals of the playoffs for the first time since 2002, guys like Brett Moore, Blake DeBartola, Terico Agnew, Nico Hickey and Boyd Sasser — who all contributed to the playoff run — were originally walk-ons.
    Kentrellis Showers, a redshirt-freshman wide receiver, hopes to follow in their footsteps.
    “A lot of those guys have earned scholarships,” said Monken, “and Kentrellis is going to have the opportunity to do that, too.”
    Showers has been catching the eyes of the coaching staff since fall camp of 2010, but he wasn’t quite ready for the field when he entered the program. He had a nose for the football, plenty of speed and good hands, but he wasn’t prepared for the primary role of a receiver in the GSU option offense — blocking.
    “Last year I kind of shied away from it because I wasn’t really ready for it,” said Showers. “During my red-shirt year, the coaches told me to get ready and start blocking.
    “When I first walked on to the team, I had skills, but I didn’t know how to use them. I’m grateful to the coaches for showing me how to use my talents on the field.”
    Showers was expected to contribute early in fall camp of 2010, but eventually the decision was made to give him the red shirt.
    “Last year, I wasn’t really high on the depth chart, so I made a promise to myself that, no matter what, I was going to work hard,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m not on scholarship, so that pushes me even more to try to get on the field.”
    Showers isn’t the only receiver working on the running game.
    “They’ve been working hard to make themselves better for the system,” said receivers coach Lamont Seward. “They’re working hard to become better ‘wide tackles.’”
    Showers earned one of the starting roles for the 2011 Blue/White game on April 15 and made the most of it, catching two passes from Blue team quarterback Jerick McKinnon for 118 yards.
    Showers and the teams other walk-ons have the same opportunities at Georgia Southern as the scholarship recruits.
    “They dress in the same locker room and live in the same dorm and eat the same food,” said Monken. “Those guys are fun to watch develop.”
    The Eagles will scrimmage at Paulson Stadium today at 10 a.m.
    Later in the day at 4 p.m., GSU will host “Meet the Eagles” where fans will have the opportunity to interact with all Georgia Southern fall sports teams.

GSU Practice Update
    The Eagles will scrimmage this morning at 10 a.m. in Paulson Stadium. Following the scrimmage, fans will have the opportunity to meet the football team, as well as the other fall sports — volleyball, men's and women's soccer and cheerleading — at 4 p.m. at Paulson's Bishop Field House. The players and coaches will be available to sign autographs until 5:30 p.m.

    Quotable: “They’ve been working hard to make themselves better for the system. They’re working hard to become better ‘wide tackles.’”
    — Lamont Seward, second-year GSU head coach

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