The Georgia Southern football team started off their conference schedule with two hard-fought losses. With their backs against the wall the Eagles have reeled off a pair of impressive wins including a 28-23 conference road win at Old Dominion.
This past week the Eagles had their first bye of the season. The Eagles are currently 5-3 and 2-2 in conference play and are one win away from being bowl eligible. Players and coaches feel the bye came at just the right time as they try to make a postseason run beginning with Saturday's 4 p.m. games with Sun Belt Conference rival South Alabama at Paulson Stadium.
“After 13 weeks of playing ball including five weeks of a very physical training camp and then eight straight football games it was needed to heal up,” said coach Clay Helton. “We actually had three days of lifting to incorporate strength and conditioning back in. We got back on the field a couple times, but not a lot of heavy contact. We got in a little schematics into South Alabama as well.”
“It was great to have the bye week as us as players were able to rest up and get healthy,” said Eagle defensive back Anthony Wilson. “It also gave us a chance to go back and look at some things technically that we needed to clean up.”
While many players were able to heal up, the bye week wasn’t without some bad news from a health standpoint as it was revealed that senior receiver Amare Jones would be lost for the season. Jones suffered a hit during the Old Dominion game which caused a hematoma within his intestine that had to be cut out with surgery. Helton said he is recovering and expects him to be able to be with the team before the season ends but he will not be able to play.
The Eagle receiver room was one of the deeper units on the team but have now lost a couple key players. They lost Sam Kenerson early in the season and Jones was leading all receivers with six touchdowns before his injury. Helton said it may be time to give some newcomers a chance, although he still feels with Khaleb Hood, Derwin Burgess Jr. and Jeremy Singleton the Eagles are still solid at receiver.
“First of all, you can’t replace an Amare Jones,” said Helton. “He was an immense talent and could not only win his one-on-one matchups but also has the ability in space to make you miss. He is what the NFL is looking for the ability to be explosive down the field but also the ability to throw short and run long.”
“We have some players now on our team that have the ability to garner even larger roles,” said Helton. “When you look what Kyle Vantrease has been able to do we have three other receivers with over 40 catches. We have also seen some young guys come on like Marcus Sanders who has already made a huge catch for us in a clutch situation. We can also take advantage of the redshirt rule where freshmen can play four games without losing a year of eligibility. For players like Dalen Cobb, Josh Dallas and Jet Thompson this is an opportunity for those young men to be able to get in and contribute.”
The Eagles actually now have two games in 11 days as after this Saturday’s game with South Alabama they hit the road for a Thursday night contest at Louisiana on Nov. 10.
“With the demands of playing two games in 11 days you need to do some advanced scouting too,” said Helton. “As we hit Sunday it was all about South Alabama. Overall, the bye week was great for us to get some mental rest and physical rest as well as our coaches to be able to do some advance scouting for the last four games which are four tough football teams.”