Ever since taking over the Georgia Southern offense toward the end of last year, many fans of the Georgia Southern football team have been paying close attention to the work of offensive coordinator Doug Ruse. The Eagles showed improvement on offense over their last three games in the 2020 season — capped off by a 38-point performance in the New Orleans Bowl against Louisiana Tech.
Ruse was delt a tough blow over the offseason as projected starting quarterback Justin Tomlin was ruled ineligible for the first two games of the 2021 season. Saturday Ruse had to gameplan for two quarterbacks who had never taken a snap in that position in a collegiate game. The Eagles managed 30 points, but a scaled back playbook was necessary for the lack of experience of true freshman Cam Ranson and Tulane transfer Amare Jones who hadn’t played quarterback since high school.
“We didn’t really set a different game plan depending on who the quarterback was,” said Ruse. “They were both repping the same things all week long and we tried to have them prepared the best we could. They have both been playing well and I thought they both did a nice job for their first action at quarterback in a college game. Our biggest concern was two inexperienced guys taking snaps at quarterback and I think we did a good job with that.”
Not only were both quarterbacks inexperienced, but they also come from different offensive backgrounds giving Ruse even more work.
“I don’t limit the call sheet based on who is in there,” said Ruse. “But coming from the high school offense he played in Cam is more comfortable back there in the pocket. Amare has been more on the move and feels better running the ball. Amare has not had as many reps at quarterback in camp, so you have to be conscious of that.”
Despite compiling over 500 yards of total offense one of the areas the Eagle offense struggled was in the red zone where they had to settle for a couple field goals Saturday.
“There are a few calls I would like to have back from Saturday,” said Ruse. “I didn’t put us in the best possible position to convert on some of those. I thought we did some really good things in that first half as we had four drives and came away with four scores. One thing we have really emphasized this week is when we get into the red zone, especially the lower red zone, we have to get touchdowns on the board and not field goals. That is something I am going to need to do a better job of when we get close.”
One of the things Ruse brought to the Eagle offense is a more up-tempo style. Saturday the Eagles ran 86 plays as compared to just over 62 per game last year, a factor that could have led to players being a little more winded at the end of the game.
“I do think running 86 plays was a factor in us looking a little tired at the end of the game,” said Ruse. “Not only was it the total number of plays but we had a couple of really long drives in there. We didn’t rotate in a lot of offensive linemen; we pretty much used the same five guys the entire game. In the long run that will pay off for us. There is no way to get in game shape other than playing in a game. It is hard to simulate that in practice.”
“We are going to try and mix some other guys in on the offensive line,” said Ruse. “We have a few guys out right now that we should be getting back soon, and we can get in the mix. We also have some young guys that are coming on and are close to being ready and I think the overall depth at the offensive line will be better in the coming weeks.”
One issue Ransom is facing that Tomlin won’t when he plays is that Jones is one of the biggest weapons on the field, but at this point when he is not playing quarterback he is not on the field.
“Ultimately you want to get your biggest threats and best weapons on the field at the same time,” said Ruse. “Amare is definitely one of those guys. The position we are in right now at quarterback without Justin Tomlin we have to be careful. I hate to look over there when Cam is in the game and see Amare on the sidelines but at this point until we get J.T. back we have to be smart there and not overuse him. We talked about conditioning, and I think Amare wore down a little the other night too.”
Ruse and Lunsford have both stated that the plan remains to play Jones and Ransom Saturday at FAU. The real question is what will happen the following week when Tomlin becomes eligible.
“Me and Coach Lunsford are in constant communication regarding the quarterback position,” said Ruse. “I thought for being a true freshman and only being on campus a couple of months Cam did a heck of a job. The thing you just don’t know is how they will keep their composure under pressure, and I thought he did a phenomenal job.’’
“Justin Tomlin had a great spring and a great summer and first part of camp,” said Ruse. “His situation gave two guys an opportunity to really show us what they can do, and we have learned a lot about them. They both need to go out there and play their tails off again this week. In that respect I’d love for there to be a quarterback controversy when J.T. comes back. I hope we have two guys playing that well that it is not just a given who the guy will be.”
The Eagles will travel to Boca Raton Saturday for a 3:30 start with Florida Atlantic.