Georgia Southern key: Running and stopping the run

Georgia Southern needs to run successfully and stop the run.

Running the ball successfully shouldn’t be a problem. The Eagles rushed for 5,591 yards last season for an average of 399.4 yards per game, best in Division I. They return four starters on the offensive line, as well as quarterback Jerick McKinnon, B-back Dominique Swope and T-back Johnathan Bryant. Plus, McKinnon said they will try to open the passing game more, which if successful, should boost the running game.

Running with consistency was a small issue last season. Though the Eagles rushed for 307 yards in a 23-21 loss to The Citadel, they scored one touchdown in the final 2 1/2 quarters. In the victory over Central Arkansas in the Eagles’ opening playoff game, they rolled up 404 rushing yards but scored only 24 points, turning what should have been a blowout into a close 24-16 game because they failed to score in the second half.

Stopping the run may not be as easy a problem to solve.

Four of the Eagles’ best players on defense — Darius Eubanks, J.J. Wilcox, John Stevenson and Brent Russell — used up their eligibility last season. They also lost Dion DuBose, another four-year letter-winner.

Opponents rushed for 135.4 yards per game last season, but in three playoff games that average crept to 152 yards per game.

The Eagles return seven starters on defense, but only three from the front seven.