Brian Bohannon, Kennesaw State begin practices for unusual season

(Cory Hancock/AJC special)

Credit: Cory Hancock

Combined ShapeCaption
(Cory Hancock/AJC special)

Credit: Cory Hancock

Credit: Cory Hancock

The Kennesaw State football program believes it has a special opportunity this spring. For the first time in its short existence, the Owls have the stage to themselves. The Falcons, Georgia and Georgia Tech are all in their offseasons.

Fans starving for football in metro Atlanta have few better options than KSU.

“We’re always looking to get eyes on our program, we’re proud of what we do here,” coach Brian Bohannon said Friday. “We’re excited about it. From recruiting to fans to you name it, we want people to to engage with our program.”

Preseason practice for the Owls began Friday, about four weeks from the season opener at home against Shorter on Feb. 27. All six games will take place on Saturdays at 1 p.m., four of them at home. The majority of the Owls’ games are at their home field — Fifth Third Bank Stadium — which will operate at 20% capacity.

The Big South Conference postponed its football season Aug. 12 because of COVID-19. It gave its member teams, including Kennesaw State, an option to play four non-conference games in the fall at their discretion.

Player representatives from each position group chose to wait, Bohannon said. North Alabama and Campbell were the only two schools that competed in the fall.

Now Kennesaw State will have the opportunity to compete for the FCS championship, which was postponed until the spring. Eleven teams will qualify for the playoffs automatically via conference championship. The other five teams will be at-large selections.

The Owls were picked to win the Big South before the season was postponed, marking their fourth consecutive year as the favorites. They won the conference in 2018.

An extended break from game action means that players are looking forward to getting started, Bohannon said. In a tweet, junior defensive back Cole Loden said he’s never been this excited for a season.

The team used “fall ball” like it would use spring practice in a normal year. Because of a busy 2021, however, Bohannon said he reduced practice time by about 25-30 minutes.

A large contingent of returning players endured the strange fall together. All-American running back Bronson Rechsteiner signed with the Baltimore Ravens, but third-leading rusher Isaac Foster will return.

The 2019 team’s second-leading rusher, Tommy Bryant, will start at quarterback this season, Bohannon said. Bryant made three starts at quarterback in the 2019 season before he suffered an injury in the first round of the playoffs. He led the team with a total of 16 touchdowns, seven of which were passing.

Big South Defensive Player of the Year Bryson Armstrong also returns. The linebacker from Marietta had 95 tackles and 12 tackles for a loss as a junior.

“We got a good group coming back,” Bohannon said. “It was really beneficial for a lot of freshmen and young kids to get a lot of reps in the fall. Obviously, when you’re going into a season during a pandemic, everybody’s got to be ready to play.”

The start of preseason practice Friday coincided with the news about the Atlantic Sun Conference’s addition of three new schools -- Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State. The expansion opens up the possibility of adding football as a conference sport. All Kennesaw State teams other than football compete in the ASUN.

Bohannon said he’s monitoring the situation, but isn’t in a position to speak about it.

Kennesaw State spring 2021 football schedule

Feb. 27 – vs. Shorter, 1 p.m.

March 13 – vs. Charleston Southern, 1 p.m.

March 20 – vs. Dixie State, 1 p.m.

March 27 – at Gardner-Webb, at 1 p.m.

April 3 – vs. Robert Morris, 1 p.m.

April 10 – at Monmouth, 1 p.m.

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