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Eagles add to flock on signing day
GS Football
Georgia Southern head football coach Clay Helton keeps an eye on his squad during an Aug. 2 practice at Paulson Stadium. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Georgia Southern head football coach Clay Helton announced the Eagles early signing class of 2024. The class is made up of 23 players with 20 high school seniors, two players from the transfer portal and one junior college transfer. 

“Any time you get to welcome 23 student-athletes into your football family it’s a great day,” Helton said. “Just as we have in the past two recruiting cycles, we are still a development program. We signed 20 of our 23 players right out of high school.” 

The Eagles class is rather balanced with 12 offensive players and 11 players on defense. 

“The breakdown of this class starts with the big men,” Helton said. “I think any time you are trying to win championships, big men win those championships. We signed four offensive linemen and three defensive linemen. We have a talented quarterback in Tyler Budge from North Carolina and we surrounded him with some great skill position players.” 

Among the skill position players is Bryce Baker, a 6-0, 210-pound back from Benedictine in Savannah and Taeo Todd, a 5-9, 175 pound back from Troup County high school. 

“Running back wise we wanted to follow up with what we have now in Jalen White and O.J. Arnold with a thunder and lightning type,” Helton said. “We went to Savannah and got Bryce Baker who is more of a power back like Jalen White. We went to Troup County to get a tremendous athlete in Taeo Todd who can provide that spark of lightning.” 

Of the 23 players 19 come to Georgia Southern from here in the Peach State which is the largest number of Georgia players out of all the colleges in the state of Georgia. 

“When you look at the past three recruiting cycles no one has signed more players from the state of Georgia than we have,” Helton said. “I have been blown away how college-ready the players in the state are. We are following the blueprint of coach Erk Russell and that starts here in the state of Georgia. We found success within the state in the first two cycles with three freshman All-Americans from the state of Georgia and hope that continues this year."

The Eagles have one glaring need that may still be addressed after signing day and that is at quarterback where they lost graduate transfer Davis Brin who started all 13 games for Georgia Southern. They did sign incoming freshman quarterback Tyler Budge who led Weddington high school in Matthews N.C. to a state championship throwing for over 3,000 yards and rushing for over 600 yards this season. 

“To get Tyler Budge into an already strong quarterback room is a huge step,” Helton said. “He not only has all the intangibles to be the face of your program, but also has the decision-making skills and the accuracy you need. He gets the ball out and has already helped lift his team to a state title. You look at the other guys in that room in J.C. French and Davis Dallas as well as Colton Fitzgerald and Coby Walton. We are also looking to continue to build that room and yes, a transfer could be on the table.” 

Helton said that in a time where many colleges are building primarily with players out of the transfer portal Georgia Southern is attempting to go back to the old school ways of building with primarily high school students. 

“I think in this transfer portal world where you have seen 3,300 transfers since the window opened, we decided to stick to our blueprint which was founded by coach Russell,” Helton said. “Stick to being a development program with Georgia athletes, and you’ll look up and see that we have three freshmen All-Americans which we had. You will have guys who are growing into All-Americans and you don’t lose the attrition.”  

When asked if this decision to go with high school students has anything to do with limited resources to pay players currently in the transfer portal with NIL money, Helton said NIL is a factor, but it was more of a decision the coaching staff decided was the best route to take. 

“When you have these signing classes you have to make that decision based on where is the most talented kid you are acquiring,” Helton said. “What is mind-blowing to us right now is the quality of football player that is coming out of high school. I think that is because of the overload in the transfer portal. You have to then make the decision if you are going to be a development program that grows from within, or go more with the transfer portal.” 

Helton said the Eagles still have scholarships available and that he expects fore signings over the next month and into February.