Special teams still need work for GSU

Perhaps the only blemish on Georgia State’s victory Saturday against South Alabama was the play of the kickoff coverage units.

In what has been a problem most of the season, the Panthers allowed a season-high 209 yards. The Jaguars averaged 36 yards on five kickoff returns and 17 on one punt return.

For the season, GSU opponents are averaging 21.24 yards per kickoff return, which ranks 66th among the 120 FCS (formerly Division I-AA) teams, and 12.2 yards per punt return, placing them 95th.

“It’s not an effort thing, it’s not a scheme thing, it’s guy being disciplined in their lane integrity and coverage,” special-teams coordinator Anthony Midget said.

The Panthers changed some of the personnel on the coverage teams earlier this year, including more upperclassmen and starters, in an attempt to shore up the deficiencies. Midget said it’s too late in the season to make any more wholesale changes.

“It was hard to understand how it could be happening, but we simply weren’t getting off blocks, and we were running out of our lanes,” Georgia State coach Bill Curry said. “We made some personnel changes due to injuries, but they were veteran players who should know exactly where they should be and what lanes they should be in.”

Noisy conditions

The Panthers will play at Texas-San Antonio on Saturday in the Alamodome, a venue with a reputation as a loud and difficult place to play. The Panthers use a simulator in practice to replicate noise conditions.

“It’s a loud place,” Curry said. “I’ve been to several games there. [Crowd noise] matters a lot for the offensive line.”

While defensive end Christo Bilukidi said the volume won’t matter, offensive tackle Clyde Yandell agreed with Curry. He said last year’s game at Alabama was the loudest place he has played, so much so that the team went with a silent snap count.

Yandell said the noise can be a factor because in some cases he can’t see the ball at the snap. Not being able to hear the count could turn into a half-step difference for the player he’s blocking.

Better line

In the past two games the Panthers have totaled more than 450 rushing yards. In the past two games the Panthers have also had their first-string offensive line together after a period of injuries or suspension.

“It definitely helps with continuity,” Yandell said.

The starting line, which features four seniors, have been playing together for two years. Yandell said offensive line coach Mike Riddle has mixed in some of the younger players, such as Ulrick John, to give them experience for next year.

Yandell also credited quarterback Kelton Hill, whose elusiveness keeps plays alive if the pass protection breaks down, and running back Donald Russell for helping the line look good. On Saturday, Russell became the first GSU player to rush for more than 100 yards in a game.

“Having a guy like Donald Russell is huge,” Yandell said. “Everybody likes blocking for him because he’s a powerful runner.”

Etc.

Drew Little will be able to play at quarterback this week. He has missed the past two games because of injuries sustained in the loss to Murray State. ... While Curry wasn’t happy that Hill lost three fumbles, he pointed out that Hill hadn’t consistently played in game conditions since last year’s season-ending loss to Alabama. The scout team worked on trying to strip the ball from Hill during practice this week, to prepare him for what he will experience Saturday.