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What will SSU look like?
090410 GSU FOOTBALL 03
Former Georgia Southern quarterback and current assistant coach Jaybo Shaw pitches the ball to former slotback Lamar Brown who scored on a 6-yard run in the second quarter against Savannah State in this Saturday, Sept. 5, 2010, file photo. GSU won 48-3. The Eagles are 9-0 all time against the Tigers, who enter Saturday's game with their eighth head coach in the last 15 years. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/file

Savannah State (0-0) at Ga. Southern (0-0)
6 p.m.
Paulson Stadium
Radio: 102.9/103.7 FM

    It’s a new season with a similar story. For the eighth time in the last 15 seasons, Savannah State has a new head football coach.
    The variation on the story this time, however, is that Earnest Wilson was hired after recruiting and spring camp had passed under former coach Steve Davenport, and less than two months before the start of fall camp. Wilson came from Hampton, where he was the offensive coordinator, which led to speculation that the Tigers would do a lot of passing.
    Still, there are a lot of unanswered questions about SSU for the Georgia Southern Eagles, who open the 2013 season on Saturday at Paulson Stadium against the Tigers with little information about what they’ll see on either side of the ball.
    “We prepared for everything,” GSU head coach Jeff Monken said. “Offensively, we prepared for five different fronts. Defensively, we prepared for everything from traditional I-formation, tight end, flanker and a split, to five wideouts and everything in between. Because we don’t know. They can say ‘air raid’ all they want, but I don’t know, they might be smash-mouth central. We prepared for everything, so hopefully we’ve done enough to have ourselves ready.”
    Georgia Southern offensive coordinator Brent Davis is not sure what to expect from SSU’s defense.
    “You try to do some digging and check in on some backgrounds, see what coaches they’ve worked with in the past and what teams they may have faced, option-wise,” Davis said. “You’re always trying to find some film with some relevance. I can’t tell you we’ve been able to do that, in this case.”
    With GSU’s option offense, fortunately, it’s all about adapting to what the defense gives you. And the Eagles have seen a lot of defensive looks since Monken and his staff took over the program in 2010.
    “It’s our fourth year doing the same thing,” Davis said, “so we’ve got a lot of banked reps. … And after 28 practices, you hope you've shown your guys, and they’ve applied their rules to, anything they’re going to see.”
    “It really stays the same,” Monken added. “We can find out as the (SSU) game gets going what they're settling into, and we can base the game on that. That’s the way we've always done it.”
    Defensive coordinator Jack Curtis is equally thankful to have plenty of experience on that side of the ball.
    Only sophomore safety Matt Dobson is new to his position on defense. To Curtis, nothing beats experience.
    “There’s no question. There’s nothing like experience,” Curtis said. “The teams I find are the hardest to beat are the teams out there playing fourth- and fifth-year seniors.”
    Fifth-year senior Josh Rowe returned to the field after a year off for academic ineligibility and junior defensive tackle Justice Ejike, four-year starter Brent Russell’s replacement, are the only other GSU defenders who didn’t start in 2012. Everyone else looks to pick up where they left off.
    “We’ve got to worry more about us trying to do the right things,” Curtis said.
    Kickoff for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m.
    With seating limited at Paulson Stadium due to construction, only 900 general-seating tickets remained as of a GSU statement released on Thursday.

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