Georgia State held its annual spring football game Saturday at Georgia State Stadium, and after his team ended the 2018 season 2-10 (1-7 Sun Belt), coach Shawn Elliott wants to see a different story unfold for the 2019 season.
Here are five players who had strong performances in the spring game and could help the Panthers have a successful season.
1. Quarterback Dan Ellington
Ellington has a goal for the 2019 season. He wants to be the best quarterback in the Sun Belt Conference and be named the Sun Belt Player of the Year.
He returns as the starting quarterback in his second season with the Panthers. He finished last season as the team’s leading rusher with 625 yards, the third-highest season total in GSU history, and five touchdowns. He completed 174 of 292 passes for 2,119 yards and 12 touchdowns.
In the spring game, he said while he had a positive feeling about his performance on the field, he recognized he had a handful of mistakes with some missed assignments. However, he had moments of strong passes to his wide receivers and good reads, helping lead the offense to succeed.
“Dan’s a good leader for us, he’s got to lead us offensively and lead our football team,” Elliott said. “I think he’s got every capability to be a high-level player.”
2. Wide receiver Christian Owens
Owens is a senior who uses his height as an advantage. At 6-foot-4, he stands above the defensive backs, allowing him to outmatch the coverage and catch his passes.
He caught multiple passes throughout the spring game to move the offense down the field, including a tight catch along the sideline. Owens focuses on making plays, and said while he had a handful of receptions in the spring game, there could have been more.
One area he wants to improve his game is his speed. He has the height, but he wants to run faster to improve his overall abilities as a wide receiver. He has the chance to play an important role in the wide receiver corps in next season.
“He has the ability to be a big-time player for us. If you look at him, he’s 6-foot-4, he’s 215 pounds, and he can run and catch,” Elliott said. "We’ve got to continue to build his strength in his hands, I think that’s one of the most important things he has to do, is he’s got to develop those hands, just get them consistent.”
3. Defensive end Terry Thomas
Thomas’ ability to tackle and break through the offensive line to record tackles for loss stood out in the spring game. The senior defensive end focused on moving more vertically downfield and penetrating the offense, areas of emphasis Elliott wanted the defensive line to work on.
He said the ability to break through and tackle for a loss comes form listening to the scheme and paying attention. He has to react to the blockers, and if he can beat the block, he can move into the backfield and make the play.
His tackles for loss in the spring game proved important moments in stopping the offense.
“And so I was able to make those plays because I was in the right spot at the right time and the ball being there, and at that point it’s just making that play,” Thomas said.
He still sees areas of his game he plans to work on over the summer before the season begins. He wants to improve his pass rush. The goal is to get off the blocks and make a tackle for loss. These adjustments will make both him a stronger component of the defensive line and lead the unit to success.
4. Safety Jaylon Jones
Jones did not want to miss any of his assignments in the spring game, and he wanted to make key tackles. He was able to do just that.
The sophomore knew a play where the offense would run an out-route. As he watched them line up in formation, he knew what play to expect and was able to make the tackle on the sideline.
He adjusted his focus for spring practice on the mental aspects of the game. He worked to see different concepts of the game, understand the plays the offense is going to run and read the quarterback drops. His time spent on these areas paid off in the spring game and will prove helpful during the season.
“Jaylon is in position to make plays,” Elliott said. "I think we know exactly what kind of player he can be and will be. He developed over the spring, he’s got good football IQ, he can run and he can surely tackle. And that’s what we like about him. He’s a guy that can play multiple positions. He can play in the corner. He can play in the safety.”
5. Wide receiver Cornelius McCoy
McCoy’s speed sets him a part as a wide receiver. The sophomore said he focused on increasing his speed for the spring game. On multiple receptions throughout the game, he displayed his ability to run.
“In a game, when I make a move my speed is all that I need to get separation from the defender,” McCoy said. “So, it’s like every time I cut and I get that 5-yard burst, I try to get five more out of that.”
He saw a concern with his passes from the spring game, as many were body catches instead of using his hands. He wants to work on catching his passes more with just his hands and not relying on his body.
Working on catching more with his hands, along with running his routes will make him a stronger wide receiver and help add to the depth of the unit. His speed helps set him a part from others in the group.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.