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Canteen ready to lead Eagle secondary
GS Football
Georgia Southern cornerback Derek Canteen picks off a pass during the Eagles' victory over Massachusetts last fall. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Georgia Southern football fans were very excited when the news broke that Georgia Tech quarterback James Graham had decided to transfer to Georgia Southern. With senior Shai Werts leaving, the addition of a quarterback who has started on the P-5 level seemed to soften the blow of losing a four-year starter.


Most Eagle fans took for granted the one-time transfer rule would pass in January, and Graham would be eligible to start this fall. Under the proposed Division 1 transfer rule, all student athletes would have the ability to transfer and compete immediately once during their collegiate experience. As of March 26, the transfer rule has not passed, leaving many coaches in limbo when trying to plan for the fall.


“I know the transfer rule still hasn’t passed, but the word is that it will happen in April,” said Georgia Southern head coach Chad Lunsford. “I don’t think it is going to be an issue for us, however until it does become official you have to keep that in the back of your mind and make sure that is part of your decision making. The good thing is this is spring football, and everyone is going to get their fair share of snaps and we will have a chance to evaluate and wait and week what happens.”


While the Eagles benefited from the transfer with Graham, running back Amare Jones from Tulane and linebacker Andrew Johnson from Oregon, the also lost a few players via transfer. Most notably Shai Werts and safety Kendrick Duncan both went to Louisville, while cornerback David Spaulding transferred to the University of South Carolina.


“I think for some players it may be the right decision but for others maybe not,” said Lunsford. “I think it is a case-by-case situation. I tried to talk a few of our players into staying, but for a few others it may have been the right move.”


The danger for some G-5 schools is player like Duncan and Spaulding having success at Georgia Southern and parlaying that into moving “up” to a P-5 school. One player that admitted he probably had an opportunity to move up as well is Eagle sophomore cornerback Derrick Canteen who was named a freshman All-American after a stellar 2020 campaign. 


“I sat down with my family and thought about the pros and cons of entering the transfer portal,” said Canteen. “I am a realist, and I knew there was probably someone at a P-5 school that may want me, but after praying and talking with my family I didn't feel that was right for me.”


Canteen doesn’t begrudge Spaulding and Duncan for moving on, but just feels Georgia Southern is the right place for him.


“I am happy for them and I still talk to those guys frequently,” said Canteen. “With them gone it forces me to step up as a leader which is a great opportunity for me. I am close to home here and my family loves to visit me at the campus. I love my coaches, the fans and everyone here and I am comfortable in the system and with my teammates.”


Canteen also understands the road to the NFL comes through Statesboro as well. In fact, the largest number of players from Georgia Southern to make it on an NFL roster has been members of the Eagle secondary. Among those players are Earthwind Morleand, Kiwaukee Thomas, David Young, J.J. Wilcox and most recently Kindle Vildor.


“I am a guy that wasn’t really a high-profile player out of Augusta Georgia,” said Canteen. “I have never really felt the shine was particularly on me. I understand that this isn’t a Power-5 school, but this is Division-1 football and if you are good enough to play in the NFL, they will find you. If you are talented enough and let God lead you, any dreams like the NFL can come true.”


The Eagles will hold their final practice on the banks of Beautiful Eagle Creek Saturday and will hold the remainder of their practices at Paulson Stadium. The annual Blue/White game will be held April 24.