Georgia Southern has been an FBS program for just five years and has seen the highs and lows already, going 18-7 their first two years (including an 8-0 record in Sun Belt play in 2014) to 5-7 in 2016 to 2-10 in 2017, all the way up to a 10-3 record last year in the first full year under Chad Lunsford.
The running game was the star of the show in 2018 (266 rushing YPG), but the defense was probably the better side of the ball overall, and certainly more rounded as the Eagles were great both defending the run as well as in coverage.
I’m not sure how many people checked out the Georgia Southern Eagles last year, but they were one of the most fun offenses to watch in the nation thanks to their option attack.
QB Shai Werts is back, and while he is a better passer than you’d expect from an option team (59.5% completion rate, ten touchdowns, zero interceptions), he certainly shines in the run game, where he rushed for 15 touchdowns, averaging 5.0 YPA.
The top two running backs are gone from last year’s team, but Logan Wright (6.6 YPA) and Matt LaRoche (5.3 YPA) both shined on limited attempts. Wesley Kennedy is a future star for this team, averaging 12.1 yards per catch and 7.9 yards per attempt on the ground as a sophomore.
The passing game (which is essentially all throwing deep) returns four guys that averaged over 12 yards per catch last year and a whole lot of speed
The offensive line is a mixed bag as they lose C Curtis Rainey and T Jeremiah Culberth but gain T Drew Wilson, who missed last year with an injury, as well as three other guys that started significant time. G Jake Edwards, a Georgia transfer, will also jump into the mix.
This offense was pretty good last year, but with Werts a year wiser, as long as they can find a couple reliable back to turn to this year’s group could be even better.
The defense was awesome last year. They weren’t great at getting pressure on the quarterback, but in coverage and run defense this was one of the best teams in the G5, and ten of the top 13 tacklers from last year’s team are back for another round.
CBs Kindle Vildor and Monquavion Brinson are a pair of awesome corners that return after combining for five interceptions and 21 (!) PBUs last year. I’d also be excited about junior DE Raymond Johnson, who broke out with 4.5 sacks as a sophomore in 2018.
The loss of Joshua Moon (71 tackles) will hurt, but they get a ton of key pieces back and this will be one of the Sun Belt’s top defenses.
My computer likes this team on the Sun Belt-adjusted scale (93rd nationally), but digging into the roster I think I’m even higher on them. A lot of talent is back in the secondary and getting QB Werts back is huge. As long as they get some production out of the returning rushers, I think this could be a better team than last year’s group.
Now, while I think the team will be better (and my computer agrees there) I don’t think they’ll have a better record, simply because this schedule is really, really tough. Only three games are projected to be within a touchdown, and that’s because potentially season-defining games against the top three teams in the conference are all on the road, meaning a lot of the easy wins will come at home. The Eagles also draw LSU and Minnesota on the road in the non-conference meaning they’ll have to travel to five top-80 opponents while getting five sub-105 (or FCS) opponents at home.
A 7-5 or so year, which is what my computer is projecting, feels like a big step back after 10-3, especially when on paper you’ll be a more talented team, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
|Date||Opponent||OPP. RANK||Proj. Margin|
|3-Oct||at South Alabama||123||7.3|
|26-Oct||New Mexico State||125||14.6|
|31-Oct||at Appalachian State||52||-8.8|
|23-Nov||at Arkansas State||76||-5.5|
Average Projected Record: 6.7 wins, 5.3 losses (4.6 wins, 3.4 losses)