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Eagles begin fall camp
Georgia Southern head coach Chris Hatcher, right, watches as running back David Arnold tries to gather in a pass during practice Friday.

           Georgia Southern opened fall camp on Friday under intense heat at Beautiful Eagle Creek, splitting the season’s first practice into two separate sessions. The Eagles got back to work on the same day the USA Today revealed GSU’s season-opening opponent Georgia as its No. 1 ranked team by the nation’s coaches.

             “Well, I didn’t know that (about Georgia),” said Hatcher after the team’s afternoon workout. “We’re not really worried about Georgia right now — we’re worried about Georgia Southern. That’s pretty much the way we go about it each and every week leading up to the season. We’re worried about making ourselves the best that we can be right now.”

            Hatcher has split his squad into two groups, one consisting mostly of underclassmen and newcomers and the other filled with returnees and upperclassmen. The former hit the fields early in the morning Friday.

            “We got a lot of young players,” Hatcher said. “Over half of our players that practiced (today) — it was their first time ever practicing in college. We have a lot bigger fish to fry right now than worry about getting ready for a game.”

            The Eagles will return to practice for the next seven days until taking next weekend off.

            “Our guys are excited,” said Hatcher. “Execution — a lot to be desired as far as that goes — but that’s expected the first day. We had a lot of good effort out there and we had some guys that you could tell really worked hard this summer to get themselves physically prepared for this season. We got a long ways to go, it’s just day one. We want to get an inch better every day.”


Quarterback race

            Hatcher said he’s still sticking with Lee Chapple as his quarterback until the redshirt freshman from Greater Atlanta Christian slips. Sophomore Kyle Collins and Ohio State transfer Antonio Henton are the only other two quarterbacks currently fighting for the spot.

            “Right now Lee’s our No. 1 guy and he did nothing today to prove other wise,” said Hatcher. “But I hope we do have a good battle there with him and Collins and Henton over the next couple of weeks.”

            Incoming freshman and high school quarterback Leander Barney has been penciled in as a running back.


Title talk

            Earlier this month Valdosta, Ga., was named TitleTown  USA through an ESPN fan poll. Hatcher played quarterback at Valdosta State and led the Blazers to the 2004 National Championship as a coach.

            “It’s very exciting for Valdosta. I think they’re very well deserving of the award — you have to give the majority of the credit to Valdosta High,” he said. “With that great success that they’ve had — Valwood, the private school there has had some success — and then Lowndes has really been tearing it up lately.

            “Then just recently Valdosta State’s been able to add to some of the prestige that goes along with being TitleTown. We like to think that our 2004 championship team kinda got the ball rolling for Valdosta State.

            “But heck, our goal now is to make Georgia Southern TitleTown USA.”

            David Arnold ( RB, Valdosta) and Tavaris Williams (LB, Lowndes County) are both on the Southern roster from the Valdosta area.


Roster notes

            Junior Jonathan Loving (Fayetteville/Fayette County) moved from the defensive line back to the offensive line. Loving, who is trying to help fill one of the holes left by five starting seniors last year, began his Georgia Southern career as an o-lineman.

            Sophomore quarterback Antonio Henton moved from No. 17 to No 7. Junior wide receiver Chris Ashkouti went from No. 84 to No. 13. Freshman A.J. McCray switched to No. 2. Dylan Douglas moved to No. 11. Demarcus Watts moved to No. 84 while sophomore kicker Sean Mayo went to No. 95.

            Hatcher added several walk-ons to the program and brought them in at the start of fall camp Friday. They include: DL Josh Aiken-Phillips (Lawrenceville/Central Gwinnett), RB Lamar Brown (Lousiville/Jefferson County), WR Jonathan Bryant (Cairo/Cairo), long snapper Michael Churchhill (Winder/Winder-Barrow), OL Blake DeBartola (Fayetteville/Starr’s Mill), OL Matthew Ivester (Alpharetta/Alpharetta), DL Mike Williams (LaGrange/LaGrange), RB Jarrell Crawford (Hinesville/Bradwell Institute/GMC) and OL Sterling Young (Jesup/Wayne County).