Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott holds the Cure Bowl trophy after the Panthers defeated the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 27-17 on Dec. 16 in Orlando. It was the program's first bowl win.

Georgia State getting physical, searching for new leaders in spring practices

A year in, the physicality that Shawn Elliott preaches is well-established.

Elliott arrived at Georgia State with mild fanfare, taking over a relatively young program that had been to one bowl game and didn’t register on Georgia’s football-packed scale. 

He immediately made strides to change that. The Panthers secured their winningest season in school history and capped it off with a Cure Bowl win, also a team first.

“The momentum carries over,” Elliott said. “Maybe not in (spring) practices, but in recruiting … but you have to wipe the slate clean. You can’t live off last year. This is an entirely different football team, and what we’re going to accomplish has nothing to do with last year.”

While Elliott’s system is implemented, the Panthers lost several of the leaders who ran it. Gone is quarterback Conner Manning, running back Glenn Smith, cornerbacks Chandon Sullivan and B.J. Clay, among others.

“We lost a good group of seniors,” Elliott said, though the team returns 52 lettermen and 13 starters.

Still, GSU is seeking emerging leadership. Elliott already is seeing some of it blossom.

“We’re seeing it,” he said. “Some young guys doing it. You don’t need too many leaders. You need the right guys to step up and take control.”

At least for now, it’ll be difficult for leadership to come from the game’s most important position. The Panthers are hosting a four-way quarterback competition between senior Jaquez Parks, junior Aaron Winchester, redshirt freshman Jack Walker and transfer Dan Ellington.

“We’ll see who stood out above the rest,” Elliott said, while confirming there’s nothing close to a front-runner at this stage. “Ideally we see some separation by the midpoint (of the practices).”

Continuity on the offensive line will help whoever is under center. The Panthers return four starters and add three redshirt freshman along with transfer Kevin Kwapis. Pat Barlett, who started the first game last season but missed the remainder of the season, also returns.

Elliott is pleased with the versatility and athletic ability of his offensive front. With the team losing playmakers, it becomes more critical to dominate the trenches.

“I like this group,” he said. “We’re athletic and can mix and match. We have the numbers to experiment.”

Expect a much more physical group in his second season, Elliott said, because last season the players didn’t know what to expect coming in. Elliott brought immediate discipline to a program that needed it.

And he would only chance one thing about how his debut season went.

“I’d like to win a couple more games,” he said, chuckling. “We approached it the right way. We coached them hard.”

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