Hatcher for 8.16.07Chris Hatcher talks about Wednesday's practice.
Pass blocking? No problem.
Georgia Southern’s offensive line looked right at home last season despite the team’s switch from a dominating ground game to a more multiple attack. The group led the nation in fewest sacks allowed (six) in 2006 and hopes to put up similar numbers this fall while blocking for the pass-happy Hatch Attack.
The veteran group returns eight of its top 10 players from a year ago including three starters – senior left tackle Brad Williams, senior right guard Marcelo Estrada and senior right tackle Russell Orr.
“We’re a close knit group, and we’re catching on real good,” Estrada said.
Even with all the experience, first-year Eagle coach Chris Hatcher said he’s still looking for consistency up front.
“We are counting on riding those guys a lot,” he said. “They are a senior group, they’ve been around a lot and we need for them to really step up if we are going to be good on offense.”
The o-line has reduced the number of mental busts in practice recently, Hatcher said, but there are issues centering around technique and an occasional lack of effort.
“One thing that we will not compromise is lack of effort, and that’s what we are going to be harping on (Thursday),” he said.
Senior Jesse Suarez is set to take over at center after the departure of four-year starter Lance Wayne. The returning starters are helping Suarez learn the ropes.
“They’re taking care of me and telling me what to expect,” he said. “Lance set a really high standard, and I just have to take on that role, make sure I give all my guys their calls, take charge and be the center of everybody.
“Our goal is to protect our quarterback and just dominate up front, carry everything on our shoulders and make sure the receivers can make the plays they (are supposed) to make. It all starts up front, and our goal is to be solid up front all year long.”
Offensive line coach Shawn Bostick continues to be pleased with his unit’s progress and said there are some ongoing position battles although he didn’t want to name them specifically.
“They’ve had three different line coaches, three different schemes and they picked it up right away and done a great job picking it up,” he said.
Junior Dio Herrera is in line for the starting role at left guard after last year’s starter, Ricory Green, was declared academically ineligible. Seniors Dane Jenson, Jarmarcus Johnson and Pierce Giboney, junior Lewis Brooks and sophomores Josh Barker and Cole Fountain should provide some needed depth along the line.
“So far we’ve had some good practices, but we’ve been up and down a little bit, so we need to become a little more consistent,” Orr said. “Right now we feel like we’ve got five guys up front and five behind them who are ready to play some ball.”
The Eagles are continuing to improve, Hatcher said, although Wednesday was the least intense practice so far this fall.
“This was the 12th practice, and we’ve had 11 really good ones,” he said. “Today was a little sub-par, so we’ve got to come out tomorrow and get a little better. In certain areas we are improving each day, and in some areas we are regressing. So we’ve just got to get it all moving in the right direction
QB battle continues
Junior Travis Clark and senior Jayson Foster remain Georgia Southern’s top two quarterbacks. Clark started all 11 games last year, while Foster directed the Eagles’ triple option in 2005 and saw very limited time under center in 2006.
“Foster is throwing the ball better now, and Clark is doing some good things,” Hatcher said. “So we’ve got a good battle there with those two. We’ve still got a little bit of time before all that will play out.”
Screven’s Pye joins Eagles
Former Screven County quarterback Chris Pye joined the Eagles at practice this week when GSU expanded the 90-man roster it was limited to for fall camp. There are now seven quarterbacks on Georgia Southern’s roster.
“He hasn’t been able to do much and is behind on learning the offense,” Hatcher said. “He’s going to be a guy that we’ll probably end up redshirting, but we think he’s going to be a good player. He’s got to learn as much as he can, and the spring will be a good time to show us what he can do.”
Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.