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Eagles are locked in mentally
GSU opens fall camp under Hatcher
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Georgia Southern football coach Chris Hatcher makes sure quarterback Billy Lowe maintains proper head position during footwork drills Monday morning. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Hatch for 8.7.07

Coach Hatcher talks about GSU's first day.

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    Georgia Southern’s football season has finally arrived.
    Scorching temperatures greeted the team Monday as a new era of Eagle football officially commenced with the start of fall practice at Beautiful Eagle Creek. First-year coach Chris Hatcher divided the team into two groups which worked out for approximately two hours each.
    “Despite it being 100 degrees, everybody is excited,” said senior fullback Dusty Reddick. “We’ve been sitting around in meetings the last two days, and everybody was ready to get out here. It was a good day. It’s an exciting time of year just to get back on the field and play ball.”
    The first group practiced in the morning and consisted of mostly younger players while the second had the majority of the veterans and worked in the early afternoon. Reducing the number of players on the field at one time gave coaches a better opportunity to evaluate what they’ve got and allowed individuals to get more reps.
    The players wore shorts and helmets during the fairly light practice, which consisted mostly of drill work. The team will remain divided into two groups today and Wednesday and begin practicing as a team Thursday morning. The Eagles will wear shells — helmets and shoulder pads — Wednesday, and the first practice in full pads is scheduled for Friday.
    “By Thursday, we ought to pretty much know who’s going to have an opportunity to help the football team when the season rolls around,” Hatcher said.
Overall, Hatcher was “really pleased” particularly with the younger players’ eagerness to learn and by how much the veterans had retained since spring practice.
    “We were very sharp and crisp in all of our drills (in the afternoon), probably a little ahead of the game for a first-day practice and being a new coach with only 15 days of spring practice under our belts,” he said. “That’s tells me the guys are willing to learn, that they’re studying up and committed to being a championship team here at Georgia Southern.”
    The players also thought the day was smooth.
    “Things went great today as far as running our drills and running plays,” Reddick said. “We didn’t install much today, but running those base plays everything clicked. There weren’t many busts, and everybody is locked in mentally. We’ve been ready for this first day for a while.”
    Said senior Jayson Foster: “Everyone knew the playbook and their plays, so for the first day we were pretty faced paced. I think we got a lot accomplished and can build off of today. Everyone was flying around and practicing hard. It’s an up-tempo beat.”
    The NCAA allows teams 90 players at fall camp and 89 practiced for the Eagles Monday. Hatcher hopes to have one more join the team either today or Wednesday but didn’t say who that player would be.
    He thought the team was “light years” ahead of where it was early in the spring but said there’s still a lot of teaching going on. Hatcher plans to pick up the tempo of practice when the team gets together as a whole Thursday.
    As for the undecided quarterback position, freshmen Kyle Collins, Billy Lowe and Lee Chapple practiced in the morning, while junior Travis Clark, sophomore Caleb Callahan and Foster, a senior, were in the second group. Hatcher was complimentary of both Clark and Foster.

Newcomers
    Several newcomers practiced with the Eagles for the first time Monday, including a pair of FBS (I-A) transfers – sophomore defensive end Kerry Bonds from South Carolina and junior defensive back Henry Chubb from Troy. Other additions were junior Brandon Lee Williams (DE, Antioch, CA/College of San Francisco), sophomores Jerome Pelham (DE, Spring Valley, NY/Nassau CC) and Callahan (QB, Dalton/Northwest/Jones Community College), redshirt-freshman Antonio Solomon (DL, Savannah/Jenkins), who wrestled at the University of Central Florida last year, freshmen Hudson Presume (DB, Bradenton, FL/Southeast), Brent Gordon (LB, Fitzgerald), Cornelius Barnham (LB, Hinesville/Liberty County), Cole Stevenson (WR, Marietta/Sprayberry) Carter Jones (LS, Moultrie/Colquitt County) and Nick Sasser (K, Brunswick).

No longer Eagles
    Junior defensive back Roger King and freshman offensive lineman Chris Gray won’t play for the Eagles this fall after failing to qualify academically. Both were members of the 2007 signing class, as were defensive back Elbert Lee and running back James Lewis, who coaches decided not to retain. King played in all 12 games for GSU as a true freshman in 2004 before missing 2005 with an injury and spending the 2006 season at Georgia Military College.
    Sophomore defensive linemen Neal Jones and Kenny Brown, sophomore running back Brandon Terry and junior defensive lineman Devin Shivers left the program for personal reasons.

Battling the heat
    Steamy weather with heat indexes soaring into triple digits will keep GSU athletic trainer Brant Berkstresser and his staff busy this week as they monitor the Eagles.
    “The biggest thing we do is push fluids,” he said. “We’ve got an athletic trainer at every position, and the players can get water pretty much anytime they want.
    “We have ice towels that go around, and by position the coaches give them periodic breaks throughout practice. When that happens, we go around with the ice towels and try to cool the core body temperature.”
    Keeping the players healthy requires coaches and medical staff to work together and pay attention to how practice is structured. Coaches schedule intense periods of work followed by slower, teaching periods to keep players from overheating.
    “All of those things combined are really what we are trying to do in order to keep these guys as cool as possible,” said Berkstresser, who said there weren’t any significant problems Monday.