I was always under the impression that one of the biggest advantages of the double-slot, triple-option offense happens around this time every year.
That’s right – signing day.
It used to be that when the Scott Riddles, Joe Flaccos and 6-foot5, 320-pound offensive linemen of the world were signing letters of intent elsewhere, Georgia Southern didn’t even notice. It was busy was signing the Greg Hills, Teddy Crafts, Lynon Jeffersons and all those little guys with the speed.
It used to be that a school would look at a Jayson Foster and say, ‘Sure, you can run fast, but what else can you do? You’re really small for a football player. Next!”
Georgia Southern would look at that same kid and it would sound more like, “Sure you can run fast, but what else can you do? You’re really small for a football player. Perfect!”
Georgia Southern would take the kids nobody else wanted and turn them into champions. That was the advantage of the offense, and now it’s back.
For the last four years, the Eagles have been looking for the same quarterbacks, same offensive linemen, same wide receivers and same running backs as everyone else. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a 6-foot-4, 220-pound quarterback who can side-step a pass rush and deliver the ball on target to the open man every time.
Only head coach Jeff Monken and the Eagles don’t want that – not if the guy can’t find a seam with his legs, read a defensive lineman and deliver a pitch when there’s nothing else there.
As long as he can get the ball to a receiver seven or 10 times a game through the air, he’ll be a great fit at GSU.
As for an offensive lineman, there just isn’t a big market for you if you’re 5-foot-10, 239-pounds – unless you’re willing to get a little dirty instead of taking a step backwards and forming a pocket.
Erk Russell used to have a saying – “Runts have to try harder.”
It’s a nice saying, but at Georgia Southern from 1982-2005 and 2010-?, it’s the truth.
Those quick, “little” lineman need to be willing to get low and stop a defensive lineman before he starts or end up 14 yards down the field on every play, and if they can do that, there’s a spot on the roster for them.
Then, there’s the running backs.
When most schools see a 5-foot-8, 172-pound runner, they see a guy who goes north-and-south in a hurry but maybe can’t fight for the tough yards or make someone miss. So they don’t get a second look.
At Georgia Southern, that’s the definition of a slotback. If he’s taking a pitch from the quarterback, it’s because there’s nobody on him. The play itself has already created a lot of green in front of him, so he just needs to take that pitch and go in a straight line as fast as he can.
Of course, “Runts have to try harder” applies to those guys, too, because not only do they have to block on the edge depending on which side of the field the play is going to, but they also have to lead block between the tackles on occasion.
The beauty of it is, those undersized guys are used to trying harder than everybody else just so they can get out on the field.
Then, there’s the fullback position. For the last eight years of the previous option era, GSU had two guys doing most of the work from the three-point stance – Adrian Peterson and Jermaine Austin. Those two were men among boys out there and they had the whole package, but believe it or not, the most important factors in the position (as far as I’m concerned) are strength, shiftiness and a low center of gravity. Even if you don’t have lightening speed, the ability to get a tough three or four yards every time you touch the ball is enough to keep the defense honest, get the job done and loosen up everything around the corner.
The threat to take it to the house on every down is just an added bonus.
Of course, with everything I just said, I’m not against going out and getting the best dang players in the country, either.
Wednesday, when we find out who signed on the dotted line to become an Eagle, we’ll know if they got the best players out there.
Fortunately, when you run an offense known among the college coaching ranks as “the great equalizer,” you don’t always have to.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.