The Georgia Southern offense is currently 76th in the nation in points per game, 80th in total offense, and is 0-24 on converting on 3rd and nine or more. Sunday afternoon Head coach Chad Lunsford announced he has decided to make a tough decision and make a change at offensive coordinator, replacing Bob DeBesse with tight ends coach Doug Ruse.
“We met with Coach DeBesse Sunday and made the difficult decision to part ways,” said Lunsford. “Coach DeBesse is a good man; an honorable man and he did a tremendous job at Georgia Southern on and off the field. He was grateful for his time at Georgia Southern, and was disappointed he won’t get to finish the job that he started.”
DeBesse came to Georgia Southern in 2018 after spending the 2012-2017 seasons at New Mexico as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks' coach. DeBesse made an improvement from the 2017 season going from 20.8 points per game to 30.4 ppg. The Eagles rushing attack went from 3,072 yards rushing to and 222 yards rushing per game to 3,716 and 266 yards rushing per contest.
“I felt like this was the best thing for our program at this time,” said Lunsford. “I felt like for us to finish the season strong we needed to make this move. This has been two weeks in a row that we had games that we should have won, and we didn’t.
“I felt like through the off season and into the season we were trending in the right direction,” said Lunsford. “We were just not finishing drives. We were having trouble in the red zone and not scoring enough points. I felt like at any moment we were going to explode, and things would take off. The explosion on the offense never did happen, and so I felt like the change was needed.”
Lunsford brought Ruse back to Georgia Southern where he served as offensive coordinator under head coach Willie Fritz. In his two years at Georgia Southern Ruse’s offense put up 37.7 points per game and led all of FBS in rushing both seasons. Ruse went with Fritz to Tulane, but was released in 2018. Ruse spent the 2019 season at Arkansas Tech.
“When we had the opportunity to hire Coach Ruse, I felt he would be a great fit on our staff,” said Lunsford. “I thought he would work well with Coach DeBesse. His knowledge of Georgia Southern, his knowledge of the offense that he ran here and his knowledge of what Coach DeBesse was running, I thought was invaluable. The whole thought process behind the hire was this is two good offensive minds that we can get together in the same room, and help one another.”
Lunsford said while Ruse was not brought in as a coordinator in waiting, he felt Ruse was the only one right for the job once the decision was made.
“When I asked Coach Ruse to do this, I knew he would be the most experienced and the right guy for the job because he has done it,” sad Lunsford. “He has been in that fire, and if you are going to make that change in the season, it’s very important that you have someone who is seasoned and don’t just bring a rookie into it.”
“What my hopes are in this is that it is going to be energizing to the team,” said Lunsford. “We are going to be doing something new, it’s not the same old thing. We are going to look differently and do different things. I’d love to say that now that we made the change, we are going to score 40 points, but I don’t know if that is realistic. I think we play good enough defense to win football games, and we need to go out there and score enough points so that we can win these games.”
Ruse is excited about the opportunity, but is also sad for his friend Bob DeBesse to have lost his job. He was also in a similar situation at Tulane so he understands the life they chose.
“It’s bittersweet, as I am excited about coordinating again, but understand that a guy just lost his job,” said Ruse. “We don’t have the time to change the scheme, but I think there will be a change in some of the play calls. I hope there will be enough change that you will see a difference.”
As far as what exactly those changes, or tweaks will look like, consider when Ruse was the coordinator at Georgia Southern there was a lot more pre-snap movement in the backfield, then what the Eagles have shown over the past few years.
“That’s always been my style and my philosophy to motion quite a bit,” said Ruse. “All the eligible receivers will motion at some point. It kind of depends on what you are facing defensively. It works better against certain fronts, more than others so it’s more of a case-by-case decision. Out of habit though, I do include a lot of pre-snap motion.”
“It would probably be a very bad idea to just wholesale change everything on offense,” said Lunsford. “There are some wrinkles, and some things that I do want to see. I want to take my time with this and make sure that not only are we setting ourselves up for success this season, but in the future as well.”
Ruse takes over at a very unenviable time. Four-year starter Shai Werts left Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury, which also kept him out of the end of the Army game. The Eagles are also without starting running backs J.D. King, and Wesley Kennedy for different reasons, and Ruse will still be expected to show improvements on offense.
“We will have to wait as far as Shai goes,” said Ruse. “It didn’t look good today, but a lot can change in 24 hours. We do have a lot of guys out right now, but that’s football. We don’t have a lot of time to worry about that, the next guy is up and you keep rolling. Hopefully by the end of the week we will look a lot different than we did yesterday, but whoever we put out there we will play fast and physical and if you do that you have a chance.”
The Eagles host 5-1 Florida Atlantic Saturday at 6:00 in a game postponed from the original date of September 19th.