It may be a bit cliche to joke that football season never really ends, but it is proving to be more true with each passing year.
The 2019 Georgia Southern football season officially ended on Dec. 21 as the Eagles fell in the Cure Bowl. With school out of session and a week full of holidays on deck, players were turned loose, but were back in the film room and weight room less than a month later.
The beginning of February brought the addition of four new Eagles as the team completed a signing class that began with with 20 signees in early December. And 4:30 p.m. today will mark the first on-field practice for the 2020 edition of the team as two hours of drills are scheduled for the turf at Paulson Stadium.
Most teams will go through their spring practices without the majority of their newest signees, but the Eagles will have a handful of theirs ready to go. A total of 11 were able to complete their high school curriculum ahead of schedule, graduating early and enrolling at Georgia Southern for the spring semester to become eligible to participate in spring team activities.
“I think that trend has a lot to do with our staff,” GS coach Chad Lunsford said. “Obviously we look for good players, but we also try to identify guys who will excel in the classroom. That has shown with a lot of our current players graduating early. Some of them decide to move on, but that opens the door to get new signees in early.”
As always, the offseason talk coming from outside of the program has centered around the offense.
Georgia Southern showed more explosiveness in 2019 and had a few breakout games, but a lack of consistency and the inability to finish sustained drives with touchdowns continued to be a sore spot. Shouldering the on-field responsibility for improving those numbers is rising senior quarterback Shai Werts.
Werts was thrown straight into the fire in his freshman season and has started all but four games — due to injury — over the last three seasons. After struggling through a 2-10 first campaign, Werts has guided his team to two straight bowl appearances. He has proven himself to be a leader for the entire team, but that has also led to another offseason storyline.
A team captain with such a long tenure can inadvertently leave a vacuum behind him when he leaves. Trying to ensure that won’t happen at the quarterback position, the Eagles signed three signal callers in their latest class and are on pace to have at least six quarterbacks on the roster when fall camp opens.
“We’ve got Shai coming in as a fourth-year starter,” Lunsford said. “As we move forward, we feel like (2019 backup) Justin Tomlin is preparing to take over that role, but we also want to develop talent and depth at that position.”
It will be a full first week of spring action as the Eagles are scheduled to follow today’s practice with sessions on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The team has scrimmages scheduled for March 12 and March 28, culminating in the annual Blue-White game on April 3 which will be played under the lights for the first time.