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Lowering the learning curve GSU newbies get shown the ropes, QBs battle it out
Georgia Southern head football coach Chris Hatcher works one-on-one with new quarterback Antonio Henton, who transferred from Ohio State, during Friday's practice.
    With so many incoming freshmen and underclassmen on the Georgia Southern football team, one of the top priorities for the Eagles’ coaching staff is finding players to fill the gaps left by last year’s graduating class — most notably those at offensive line, running back, and, of course, quarterback.
    The only problem? All those younger players don’t know the gameplan yet.
    Saturday at Beautiful Eagle Creek, GSU spent the day installing the playbook and getting everybody ready to compete for a starting spot.
    “We have an installation procedure that we go through to put the offense in each day,” said second-year Georgia Southern coach Chris Hatcher. “(Saturday was) a little overload for some of the young players, because they had to absorb what we put in today and remember what we put in yesterday.
    “We just want to see if guys have the skills to do it. We feel like once we get the whole offense in, then we start breaking them back down again and rep ’em and rep ’em and rep ’em.”
    In an effort to maximize time spent with the newcomers, most young players practiced at the early session, while most of the veterans suited up in the afternoon. The strategy should prove beneficial to those unfamiliar with the system.
    “They get more individual attention,” said Hatcher. “If you’ve got four players —two veterans and two younger guys — those younger guys aren’t going to get as many reps. If you break it up like this, they get all the attention, all the reps.
    “Right now, we recruited guys to do what we want to do. We’ve got a lot of good guys out there. They haven’t played much, but they’ve got the skills to be able to help us out.”
    Ohio State transfer Antonio Henton, one of the three quarterbacks who has a chance to emerge as the starter in less than a month, is glad to be working with the other ‘new guys.’
    “I think it gives me a better opportunity to learn the plays,” said Henton. “(Friday) I did good and (Saturday) I did better. I’m going to come out and try to do better than I did (on Saturday).That’s my goal — to get better every day.”
    That’s the goal for Kyle Collins and Lee Chapple as well. Chapple was named the starter in the spring, but knows he’s got to continue to prove himself in the role.
    “It’s good to know you’re the No. 1 right now,” said Chapple, “but you know you’ve got to bring it all every day, because those guys — they’re going to be fighting for it. You know they want that starting spot, too.”
    Collins has been around for two years, and Chapple has had a full redshirt season to get the plays down. The afternoon practice allowed both to focus more on the smaller details they need to work on.
    “It’s good to come in knowing all the plays and just fine-tune things,” Collins said. “We’re still a little rusty — well, at least I’m rusty — but we’ll fine-tune things and get better.”
    Although Henton has a bit higher of a learning curve than the other two, it hasn’t stopped him from giving his all every time he’s had the opportunity to show the coaching staff what he could do.
    “When I first got here, coach told me I had to compete,” Henton said. “If you want to compete, you’ve just got to come out here each and every day and work on the things that you need to get better. I’m not satisfied with myself, and I’ve got another day to come out and get better.
    “Any time anybody gets a chance, I hope they are going to do their best to earn a spot. I’m out here just to get an opportunity to play football like I came to college to play.”
    Each candidate for the starting job has to wonder who will get the nod at the season opener August 30 at Georgia, but all they can do in the meantime is to try and beat out the other guys.
    “It’s just a competition, and you never know what coach Hatcher’s thinking,” said Collins. “He told us it’s a competition, and it’s up in the air.”

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.