NEW ORLEANS – Three new head coaches will be making their first impressions in the Sun Belt this season, but while Everett Withers at Texas State and Matt Viator at UL Monroe have rebuilding jobs and low expectations for the immediate future, new Georgia Southern front man Tyson Summers is tasked with continuing the Eagles’ immediate success since joining the FBS two years ago.
“I can’t say enough about what it means for me to be here and to be leading Georgia Southern,” Summers said. “I love that I’m in a position to be at a place where tradition matters and where winning matters."
A former defensive coordinator at Colorado State and Central Florida with defensive and special teams duties at UAB and Georgia Southern, Summers spent plenty of time focusing on the returning defensive talent and speculating that the Eagles could build one of the best defenses in the nation.
“With (the defense), we sometimes get overlooked,” senior linebacker Ironhead Gallon said. “I think you just have to look at what we’ve proved on the field over the last few years. We’ve got a lot of experience on this unit. We also preach accountability. We all know that everyone is laying it on the line for the team."
Of course, there was still the pressing issue of what, if anything will change in the Eagles’ offense under the Summers regime Georgia Southern has led the nation in rushing in each of the last two seasons and – with quarterbacks Kevin Ellison and running backs Matt Breida, L.A. Ramsby and Wesley Fields all returning – once again figures to be an elite rushing attack.
On Monday, Summers maintained the same philosophy that he has held since being named as head coach back in December. He knows that running is the Eagles’ bread and butter, but remains adamant that increased efficiency in the passing game is necessary for Georgia Southern to continue its success.
“We’ll continue to be a gun, triple-option team,” Summers said. “There’s no question about that. We have the personnel to do that and running the ball well is something we pride ourselves on.”
And when the Eagles do try to expand their passing game, everyone will be willing to pitch in.
“I’m working on pro-style pass blocking and I’m going to do whatever is asked of me,” Breida said. “I think that’s everyone’s approach. Us running backs compete to make each other better, (pass blocking and route running) is something we can work on to make the offense better.”
The option game was alive and well in the spring and the Eagles have spent the summer doing the things outside of the normal Xs and Os that also help to win games in the fall. After plenty of hot summer days spent in the weight room, Georgia Southern is now just days away from opening its fall camp.
“Throughout the summer, we saw weight gains and, I think, built some toughness,” Summers said. “The most important thing we saw is cohesion. We’re coming together as a team. There are guys who lead through words and others who can lead by what they do on the field.
“The guys are on a little break right now, but when they show back up, we’re going to get right back to work on this new season.”
The Eagles’ first day of fall camp is scheduled for Aug. 1. There will be just two weeks of camp before players report to classes and there will be just over a month of on-field practice before the Eagles host Savannah State to open the 2016 season.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.