After more than a week of practices, the Georgia Southern football team hosted its first full scrimmage of its spring schedule Saturday morning at Paulson Stadium.
In a little over two hours of action, the Eagle defense appeared to get the better of the fight, but the offense also showed flashes of the big plays that Georgia Southern fans hope to see on a routine basis once the fall rolls around.
The defense recorded four sacks and recovered a fumble, but the offense seemed to come on strong later in the scrimmage when the focus shifted to fourth down and red zone situations.
“Starting fast is something from last year that we need to get better at,” GS coach Chad Lunsford said. “I thought the defense did that better than the offense, but we were able to get things going. After the first touchdown, no one was really celebrating. I told them to get into it and to get fired up and I think they picked it up as the scrimmage went on.”
Oklahoma State transfer J.D. King led all Eagle rushers with seven carries for 79 yards and a touchdown, highlighted by a seemingly routine dive up the middle where he side-stepped a tackle and found open space for a run of over 30 yards.
Logan Wright racked up 40 yards and a touchdown, Gerald Green had 37 yards and a score and quarterbacks Shai Werts and Justin Tomlin both found the end zone over the ground.
Werts, Tomlin and Jaalon Frazier combined to go 8-of-16 through the air for 85 yards.
As usual for Georgia Southern teams, much of the focus was on the Eagles’ option running attack. Most of the attention falls to the quarterback, but Eagle coaches are looking elsewhere this spring. Werts has proven to be a sound decision maker with plenty of talent, but he can’t do his job until the ball is in his hands and the Eagles opened spring camp with no proven center on the roster.
Jakob Cooper — who played guard last season — handled the snaps for the first-string offense, with Peyton Backer and Peyton Johnson seeing reps with the reserve squads.
“It’s an area that we need to improve on,” Lunsford said. “We talk about having a plan before the play starts and Eagles not beating Eagles. A big part of that is avoiding pre-snap penalties. If you have a bad snap, it’s like a pre-snap penalty where you can lose yards and not be able to execute.”
Midway through the scrimmage, as the players seemed to settle into the constant live contact, the mood got more serious as the offensive and defensive players began to talk trash and challenge each other.
The Eagles kept their ‘same team’ mentality and the trash talk was mostly good-natured, but big plays for either side led to ever-escalating celebrations and seemed to elevate the level of play for both sides.
“This is as close to a game as we can get during the spring,” Lunsford said. “Sometimes it can be easy to treat a scrimmage like a practice and have those same lulls you’ll get at practice, but that’s not what we want. It was good to get things ramped up and have everyone treating this like a game.”
Regular practices will resume throughout this week, with spring practice still slated to culminate with the March 9 Blue-White game at Paulson Stadium.