In this special New Year’s edition of the Weekly Whatup (and the last installment – we’re working on coming up with a better title… no offense, Chad) I thought it would be nice to take a look at the year that was and maybe even speculate a little about the fresh new set of 365 that is in front of the Eagle Nation.
- Chris Hatcher had three years to build GSU football into what it once was, but after a 5-6 season in 2009, the experiment was brought to a screeching and premature (well, I think so) halt.
- Enter Jeff Monken. Contrary to popular belief, he isn’t signifying an immediate return to Eagle football as it once was. Unless he has a flux capacitor capable of generating 1.21 gigawatts of electricity and a DeLorean that is still able to clank its way to 88 miles per hour, this will be the second complete rebuilding of Georgia Southern football since 2006. That means it will take time to get this thing going again. Heavy.
- Fortunately, the triple-option system Monken’s offense is based around is probably the best system with which to rebuild (in my less-than-worldly opinion). So, it’s possible I’m completely wrong about the last point and GSU will shoot up to national prominence in a very Georgia Tech-like way within the year. I’d love to admit I was wrong. All I know is that whoever takes the snaps has a tall order to fill, and there are a lot of great Eagle quarterbacks from the past who have set the bar extremely high.
- Speaking of rebuilding, the GSU men’s basketball team is currently 3-11. First-year coach Charlton Young said we live in a “microwave generation” in his inaugural press conference. Have you ever tried to cook lobster in a microwave? Gross. That means – you guessed it – if this thing is going to turn into something great, it’s going to take time, too. Fortunately, Antoine Johnson is expected to return to the lineup on Jan. 6. That means the Eagles will have all of the pieces on the floor for the first time this season. That auto-bid to the big dance will still be up for grabs in March.
- With all the talk of new coaches, it would be unforgivable of me not to mention Chad Callihan. The GSU volleyball team may not have made the Southern Conference tournament last year, but they would have won the North division outright, and those 21 wins make it seem like this group of girls has nowhere to go but up. If the SoCon ends up penny-pinching again next season, let’s hope it won’t matter.
- Experts say that the baseball Eagles had one of the top 25 recruiting classes in the nation in 2009. Finally, a GSU program that appears to be reloading instead of rebuilding. When you think about the fact that the 2009 SoCon champs lost the bats of Griffin Benedict, Ty Wright and Phillip Porter and nobody’s even worried about the 2010 offense, you start to realize why they’ll probably be the favorites this season. Oh, and if Kyle “Sugarbear” Blackburn hits like he did during the last month of the ’09 season, he has a very legit shot at 30 home runs this year. That would be something.
- With Rusty Cram, what you see is what you get. The Lady Eagles of the hardwood exited the SoCon tourney very early in 2009, and you can bet they’re still peeved. They intend to prove to everyone that they’re very underrated this season. Shut down J’Lisia Ogburn and Jessica Geiger scores. Shut her down, and Jamie Navarro drives the lane. Stop her, and that’s when Carolyn Whitney knocks down a trey. Double her up and Krista Tate hits a jumper. Figure how to shut all that down and Sam Williams, Janay Wilson, Meredyth Frye and the rest of the bench lights you up for 30 points. That could be a recipe for success over the next couple of months.
- Larry Mays has been quietly going about his business turning Georgia Southern golf into a legit national contender. Always a threat to come out and take a tournament, the boys of the links are almost there. 2010 will be an important year for the Eagles. It could be the year we all find out if they’re contenders or pretenders. The only thing for sure right now is that nobody in the country takes them lightly.
- The Lady Eagles of the softball diamond have had a bad habit of losing to Chattanooga in the SoCon title game for a while now. While the seasons have been oh-so-close lately, the Eagles are not far away from getting into the pool of the best teams in the country and showing America what they can do. They’ll have another shot this year.
- On the tracks and fields of the SoCon, GSU is in a class above the rest with Western Carolina, Appalachian State and Samford. While conversations about those GSU sports generally revolve mostly around how some folks lost their Paulson parking spaces when the stadium was built, it’s important to note that Georgia Southern is not so far off from becoming a prominent player in the league.
- Soccer is one sport at GSU that doesn’t provide much fodder in this discussion. The only thing I’ll add is that Kevin Kennedy didn’t take the Eagles to the semifinals of the SoCon his first year by accident. Let’s hope fall of 2009 was a rebuilding year for them and they’ll come out swinging in 2010.
- Tennis is an awesome sport, and more people should go check out Georgia Southern. Myself included. That’s all I have to say about that.
- GSU cheerleading won a national championship in 2008 and finished in the Top 5 in 2009. Did you know that? You do now.
- When GSU swimming and diving makes a splash (pun absolutely intended) it’s hard to know about it, because they’re in the Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association, which is kind of the SoCon, but not really. I know, it’s confusing. Anyhoo, I just thought you should know the championships start on February 18.
Well, that seems like about everything.
Long story short (I know, too late), I hope everyone in the Eagle Nation keeps their New Year’s resolutions, and here’s to a much, much better year in GSU sports this time around.
There’s a new university president, a hefty group of new coaches and a gaggle of brand new Eagle athletes who will all hopefully put on a show for us, along with the familiar faces.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.