The Georgia Southern Eagle football team hit the practice field at Beautiful Eagle Creek about 8:20 Friday morning for the first day of preseason practice. The Eagles missed out on their usual first day crossing th bridge at Eagle Creek last year due to COVID protocols and coach Chad Lunsford was happy to be back to a somewhat normal first day of practice.
“We had good energy and it was a good vibe out there today,” said Lunsford. “I did think we were a little hesitant at times, but I feel like that can come from first day jitters and being at Eagle Creek for the first time since the spring. We also have a lot of younger guys that were learning where to go, but as far as their work mindset I felt that was good and I hope we get better from day one to day two.”
One unusual sight at practice was the absence of four-year starter Shai Werts. The quest for finding a replacement for one of the all-time statistical best players in school history began Friday with Justin Tomlin, Sam Kenerson, Cam Ransom and Amare Jones all taking some snaps with the number one offense.
“I spent a lot of time watching the quarterbacks particularly because some are new and we didn’t get to see them working with a football in their hands,” said Lunsford. “I thought all of them did a good job throwing, running and running the option. Even though J.T. (Tomlin) is in the situation he is in I thought he really looked good today.
The addition of Jones under center was a little unusual considering he came to Georgia Southern from Tulane as a running back and has not taken a snap at quarterback since high school.
“Amare is a really good football player and was actually a quarterback in high school,” said Lunsford. “He is a guy a lot like Wesley Kennedy when we lined him up at what people call the ‘Wildcat’ position he can definitely do that for us. And who knows he could get a lot of reps at quarterback, and he could possibly be the starter.”
With Tomlin set to miss the first two games of the season due to academic reasons the real battle right now is for the opening day starting position which Lunsford feels is a three-man race.
“Quincy Bonner from Army West Point Prep is going to get some reps, but I don’t know if he will be far enough along to compete for the starting job,” said Lunsford. “I think you are looking at Sam Kennerson and Sam Kennerson and mixing Amare Jones in there as well.”
Tomlin regrets the decisions that led to him missing the first two games but feels he has straightened out his academic issues and is looking forward to competing for the starting position after missing the first two games.
“I put myself in this position and I know I am going to have to miss the first two games, but I am going to do all I can to keep working hard,” said Tomlin. “I am going to do my best those first two games to try and help whoever will be the starter and we will just see how it goes. It may not be me at game three but I am going to keep working as if I am the starter so my mentality is just to ball out and do the best I can.”
For Ransom this will be his first time having to battle for a starting spot at quarterback since his freshman year in high school where he ended up earning the start and keeping it for four years.
“I am trying my best to just take it one day at a time and just pace myself,” said Ransom. “My focus has been learning the plays and trying to get with the system. I am coming from a spread offense, and we are a running team. It has been a little different than what I did in high school but i am gradually learning. Coming from a spread offense I really feel like I can throw the ball, but I am willing to do whatever is asked of me.”
Sam Kenerson only managed two snaps at quarterback last season and is excited to be in the mix to start this year after putting in a lot of hard work in the off season.
“We are all bought in and trying our best to earn the spot,” said Kennerson. “Of the three of us I felt like I am a little more of the running type. Cam and J.T. can both throw and run really well. I am going to fight as hard as I can but the main thing for me is finding a way to get on the field so whatever they ask of me I am willing to do.”
The biggest question the Eagles are grappling with right now is who to give the majority of the reps with the first team offense to at quarterback especially knowing Tomlin will miss the first two games of the year.
“We have discussed as an offensive staff making sure J.T. gets the reps that he needs to get to stay sharp because if he does end up being the guy, he needs to be the guy at game three,” said Lunsford. “We do understand that there will be other guys in game one and game two, so they have to run with the ones as well. We have made sure J.T. gets his reps and then we as we roll in practice Sam and Cam have gotten their reps with the ones as well.”
Lunsford went on to say he would like to have a decision in place for who will start at quarterback against Gardner Webb after the first two scrimmages which would be August 21.
The Eagles continue practice Saturday and Sunday and will hold their first scrimmage August 14 at Paulson Stadium.