Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott doesn’t like to use the word “exciting.”

He said it’s an overused phrase, especially this time of the year. Every football program in the country is energetic before the season starts. But for his players, who start official practice Friday, he said they have an abundance of reasons to look forward to their coming season.

“If you’re a football coach, this is what you live for,” said Elliott, standing behind the microphone in a new state-of-the-art football facility. “We work continuously year-round, but the fact that we get to all go out there, practice together, meet together, be around one another, it’s awesome. The game of football is about camaraderie.”

Though the Panthers struggled last season, finishing at 2-10 (and six of those games decided by three possessions or more) Elliott has a positive outlook for 2019. For starters, Georgia State has updated its facilities. Players and staff can now utilize their upgraded and improved weight room, a training and rehabilitation room, meeting rooms and a 7,500 square-foot locker room.

They’re equipped with TV monitors and pools and are in a central location, as opposed to their previous setup. Elliott’s office has easy access to the field, and is complete with a jar filled with bubble gum -- he has a tradition of chewing it during every game.

Last season’s squad was young, but Elliott thinks that plays to their advantage. The Panthers return 50 letter-winners, including nine offensive starters and seven defensive starters. The leaders on the team hope to use their experience to set an example of how to go about their business to improve going forward.

“If we develop an identity, then they will follow behind us,” senior linebacker Ed Curney said. “My message every day is, ‘Hey, this is what I want for my senior year. I want to win, I want to go out on top.”

But they won’t have an easy schedule. The Panthers’ first game is against Tennessee. Later in the season, they’ll also face Sun Belt Conference foe and league champion Appalachian State. Elliott said he wants to play against the toughest opponents. But most important, he wants to continue investing in his players and coaches so they can build a sustainable program for the long haul.

And that’s what makes him truly excited.

“Sometimes you try to go and compete so quickly that you lose sight of what you're trying to do,” Elliott said. “We’re continuing to do what we need to do to put ourselves in a position to compete. We’re trying to do things the right way.”