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Eagle D looks to build on 2nd half
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Georgia Southern defensive tackle Branden Daniel, right, applies some second-half, pass-rush pressure to West Georgia quarterback Keats Baldwin Saturday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Ashley Anders knew his guys weren’t always in the right place at the right time last Saturday, but after reviewing the game tape of Georgia Southern’s season-opening win over West Georgia, the Eagles’ defensive coordinator saw something he was proud of — effort.
    “After the guys settled down and got familiar with what was going on, the effort was there, and we were able to execute our game plan,” Anders said.
    Junior safety Chris Covington, starting his first game on defense since switching from running back this spring, also noticed the unit’s dedication.
    “Everybody was running hard,” he said. “There were some mistakes we made, but they are easily corrected. The positive thing behind it is everybody was playing hard — that’s the one thing you look for in every defense.”
    Like the offense, Georgia Southern’s defense had a shaky start, allowing 21-first half points and 255 offensive yards before settling in and shutting out the Wolves over the final two quarters. The Eagles held UWG to 83 yards and five first downs in the second half.
    Last week’s first-half performance can be attributed to several causes, coaches and players said, including first-game jitters, another new defensive scheme and the underrated Wolves’ talent.
    “The first game every year is hard,” Covington said. “Everybody’s got a lot of nerves, and you’re real emotional. The second half we just came out a lot more settle down and focused on our jobs.”
    The Eagles (1-0) will look to continue last week’s late surge in Saturday’s 7 p.m. game at Coastal Carolina (1-1). The Chanticleers averaged 372 yards of offense in their first two games with more than 260 coming through the air.
    Junior quarterback William Richardson throws for 244 yards a game, and his favorite target is senior wide receiver Jerome Simpson, the Big South’s preseason offensive player of the year, who has 79 receiving yards per contest. The Eagles said they’re preparing to see plenty of multiple sets and a good running game out of the Chanticleers.
    “They have two really good running backs, their quarterback does some really good things and they have a big-time playmaker at receiver,” Anders said. “We know they are going to try to get the ball in his hands. We are working out some game plans to kind of eliminate that.”
    Defensively, the Eagles prefer to keep things simple and emphasize executing the basics.
    “We’ve just got to be fundamentally sound when we go up there,” Covington said. “We are not putting in a whole lot of different things for them, just a few wrinkles here and there to get ready for what they do.”        Though the Chanticleers are traditionally more of a passing team, Georgia Southern’s top priority Saturday is containing the run.
    “We’re going in there to stop the running game, then we’ll go from there,” Anders said.
    Defensive backs Brandon Jackson and Covington tied for a team-high seven tackles Saturday along with middle linebacker Quentin Taylor, who transferred from Ole Miss in January. Position battles continue, Anders said, and players will have to win their roles each week at practice.
    “As long as we keep getting the reps day in and day out and playing together, I think we have a chance to be OK.”
    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.