In the wake of Georgia's barrage of suspenion announcements that came throughought the course of the offseason, Georgia Southern — which opens its season against the Bulldogs on Aug. 30 — countered by announcing several suspensions from their football team to begin the season as well.
Wednesday afternoon, Georgia Southern second-year coach Chris Hatcher announced via media release that eight members of the team would not play in the season-opener in Athens "due to a violation of institutional rules". Three of the eight would serve an additional one-game suspension the following Saturday when the Eagles take on Austin Peay.
Senior wide reciever Raja Andrews, junior defensive end Charwel Brown, senior defensive end Brandavious Mann, junior linebacker Terrione Benefield and senior defensive end Damon Suggs will all serve a one-game suspension. Redshirt freshman running back Zeke Rozier, junior wideout Garryon Taylor and junior defensive back Ronnie Wiggins will miss the first two games of the 2008 season.
Andrews, Benefield, Suggs, Rozier and Wiggins were all expected to compete for a starting role against UGA. Even considering such losses, Hatcher said Wednesday that he doesn't feel like the team has lost steam, now less than two weeks away from kickoff at Georgia's Sanford Stadium.
"Guys didn't do what they're supposed to do, and they paid the penalty and don't get to play in the first game," said Hatcher following Wednesday's practice. Hatcher did not comment on the specific nature of the players' blunder, but said that it is something he had been prepared to deal with.
"We've anticipated this throughout fall camp, so we're ready to go. It'll have no bearing on what we do whatsoever."
According to Hatcher, a few candidates have already claimed the starting spots left vacant by the suspensions. Freshman linebacker J.B. Shippy will assume Benefield's role, freshman wideout Marcus Russ will step in for Andrews, but the defensive end position still remains a bit of a question mark.
"Suggs, that's one area we're probably a little bit leaner at on the defensive line and the other guys, they were quality backups. They just have to come back and earn a spot in the starting rotation for the second ballgame."
Said senior Dakota Walker, who is poised to start at defensive end for the Eagles against UGA: "It's a big challenge, but at the same time it's an opportunity for us to go out there and showcase what we have.”
Hatcher also released a new two-deep on Wednesday, which he said is likely to change prior to the game next Saturday. Hatcher pointed to the receiver position as one that is especially fluid. The battle at the quarterback position continues as redshirt freshman Lee Chapple and sophomore Ohio State transfer Antonio Henton are both listed in the No. 1 spot. Hatcher said that if the team played tomorrow, both would see time behind center.
Natalie Sayewich can be reached at (912) 489-9413.