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’s Elliott hopes to gain clarity, leadership on offense

Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott had a record-setting first season with the Panthers, leading the team to its first bowl win in program history and a 7-5 record. 

Elliott’s successful season –– concluding with a Cure Bowl victory over Western Kentucky –– sets the bar high for his second season with the Panthers. 

“It gives our team a little bit of sense of confidence,” Elliott said. “It does give us the sense that we can go out and do things that has never been done before. If we continue to do the things that we did a year ago, then we should be sitting right where we need to be for this upcoming season.”

In 2017, Elliott’s offense recorded the highest completion percentage in a season and the fewest interceptions in a season and was led by former starting quarterback Conner Manning. Without the Cure Bowl MVP quarterback, the Panthers find themselves in a four-way quarterback competition for his replacement. 

The four-way competition between junior college transfer Dan Ellington, returning letterman Aaron Winchester, senior Jaquez Parks, and redshirt freshman Jack Walker will continue through camp, where Elliott hopes to find his team’s leader. 

“We have to identify our leader,” Elliott said. “The clarity that we are going to need is separation, and it is going to start from practice No. 1 and lead right up through our first game.”

In Georgia State’s spring game, three of the four quarterbacks displayed abilities to lead the Panthers, excluding Parks, who sat out with an injury. During preseason camp, Elliott believes the competition will come down to one player’s demeanor in the classroom, in the meeting room, and on the field. 

“You need great leadership,” Elliott said. “A calmness, a coolness from that position and all that should grow in the next 25 opportunities before our first game.”

The offense has been able to practice with each quarterback and make connections to prepare for the 2018 season, according to returning wide receiver Penny Hart. Hart said that the team will be prepared for whoever earns the starting position. 

“Having that time over the summer even in the spring to be able to connect with them, play with them, and practice with them has been really beneficial for us,” Hart said. “Either way it goes, we’re ready.”

Whoever does land the starting job will open the season at home against Kennesaw State. The Owls are coming off a 12-win season in 2017, however, the Panthers are no strangers to the playmakers at Kennesaw State. Linebacker Chase Middleton played with a few Owls “back in the day,” and is excited to open the season with friendly competition. 

“It’s going to be a good, fun reunion,” Middleton said. “There’s been some talking back. It couldn’t be any better opening up against those guys, guys you used to play with.”

The Panthers open the season Aug. 30, at home against the Owls. The game begins at 7 p.m.