The Georgia Southern Eagle football team continues to have to try and overcome obstacles on and off the field. On the field the Eagles are 6-4, but have not done a very good job this year putting teams away. That is evident in the fact that the Eagles have been tied or leading in the fourth quarter of every game this season. Off the field they have had players arrested, injured and some who have left the team. With two games left, and no Bowl game promised the players feel they are continuing to stay together.
“I think our morale is great,” said senior linebacker Rashad Byrd. “I think we have brought energy so far this week in practice. Even though we have lost back-to-back tough games I don’t think we have allowed that to carry over. It has definitely hurt me personally to lose some of these guys I have been close with. I have tried to make sure to keep in touch with those guys, what we have together is bigger than football. We do understand we have the guys that are currently on the team and we have a game to prepare for Saturday.”
For the members of the Georgia Southern offense, not only is there a chance they will not have senior quarterback Shai Werts Saturday under center, but they this will also be the first week of practice with someone other than Bob DeBesse leading the offense as Doug Ruse was named offensive coordinator Sunday.
“I feel like the energy has been good, and everyone is adapting pretty well to Coach Ruse’s way,” said senior offensive lineman Aaron Dowdell. “I feel we are slowly getting the hang of things. We are going to miss the players we no longer have, but we just have to stay with our next man up philosophy. We trust in all of the coaches and the players here, and we are just moving forward.”
The work the younger guys have made in stepping in to fill the shoes left by those who are no longer on the team, or injured hasn’t gone unnoticed by the senior starters.
“Gavin Adcock on the defensive line is a phenom, and a different animal,” said Byrd. “He is a guy that comes to work every day, and gets it done. Gerald Green has stepped up, and I like what I’ve seen from Sam Kenerson. A lot of these young guys are showing their true talent, and have stepped up when their number has been called.”
One of the key questions left to be answered is who will line up under center Saturday against FAU. According to the Georgia Southern football officials as of Wednesday afternoon, Werts has practiced in a limited capacity and will be a game-day decision. Justin Tomlin has finished the Eagles last two games to mixed results, but if counted on Coach Chad Lunsford is confident in his abilities.
“Justin Tomlin has to go into this week like he is the guy,” said Lunsford. “We have to have that conversation with Justin so that it’s not, well Shai is not practicing but he is going to play. I think it is also important to leave the door open to Shai as the week progresses and let him know if he gets his reps in he will have an opportunity.”
Lunsford feels it is a lot different situation for Tomlin knowing he needs to be ready to start a game, as opposed to be thrown in late in a game.
“Justin has been thrown into a different situation the past two weeks,” said Lunsford. “It has been a high-pressure situation the past two weeks he has been thrown into. Sometimes things work out for you in those situations because you were prepared, and Justin prepares every week. I do think there is a mindset difference in knowing I am the guy or I’m not the guy. I think it is important that we figure out things whether it will be Shai or J.T. quickly.”
The Eagles and Owls are scheduled for a 6:00 start Saturday at Paulson Stadium.