Experienced offensive line gives Georgia State a lift

Georgia State's Shamarious Gilmore picks up quarterback Darren Grainger  to celebrate a Panther touchdown in the second half of their game against Charlotte (Daniel Varnado/For the AJC)

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Georgia State's Shamarious Gilmore picks up quarterback Darren Grainger to celebrate a Panther touchdown in the second half of their game against Charlotte (Daniel Varnado/For the AJC)

When Georgia State scores a touchdown, the guy holding the football can expect to get a lift. It’s almost become a tradition for senior Shamarious “Quion” Gilmore to find his teammate, grab him by the waist and lift him high off the ground to celebrate.

Doesn’t matter whether it’s 175-pound receiver Terrance Dixon or 220-pound Tucker Gregg, they’re going for a ride.

“When I was still in high school, I saw a lineman doing that on the cover of a magazine,” Gilmore said. “I was like, you know, I feel like I’m pretty strong. I might as well just do it. So, from then on, I like to race in and do it. That’s my signature.”

Gilmore said it doesn’t matter the size of the cargo, the elevator is headed up.

“With the adrenaline flowing, it feels like everybody’s about 135.”

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Gilmore, a product of Drew High School in Riverdale, is the heart of the veteran offensive line that has helped the Panthers average 224.5 yards rushing per game, eighth-best in FBS competition. The super-senior left guard (6-foot-3, 295 pounds) will play in a school-record 60th game when the Panthers meet Ball State in the Camellia Bowl on Christmas Day.

This fall he became one of two Sun Belt players to make the all-conference team for a record fifth time.

The rest of the offensive line is also experienced and decorated. Right guard Pat Bartlett (6-4, 285) has made 41 starts and was third team all-conference. Center Malik Sumter (6-1, 285) has made 40 starts; he was a second-team selection. Left tackle Travis Glover (6-6, 330) has made 35 starts and right tackle Johnathan Bass (6-4, 290) has 21 starts.

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“Those guys are the backbone of our offense. They make it go,” Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott said. “They’re kind of like the guard. You’ve got have the men to stand guard. They protect us all.”

Gregg, who has rushed for 899 yard and nine touchdowns this season, is effusive in his praise of the offensive line. Gregg said, “I’ve been playing with them for a while now and it’s nice to have guys with a lot of experience that know what they’re doing. I’m very confident with those guys. I know they’re going to be on their assignments and they’re going to give their best.”

Gilmore and Bartlett, the two old-timers, said the offensive line is so effective because of the bonds the group has developed. They’ll often hang out together off the field, one player hosting one night and another hosting the next. They have spent hours talking about non-football related stuff. “About life,” Gilmore said.

Bartlett said, “It’s just building up that relationship between one another with the other guys in the room. At the end of the day, we’re play for the guy next to us. We’re always having each other’s back and that comes down to trust in one another. That’s what makes things go.”

For the most part the group has been able to avoid major injuries. The worst setback was an ankle and kept Gilmore out of the starting line for the Appalachian State game, although he did return to play the second half. That durability can’t be overlooked for a position group that takes as much physical abuse as any on the team.

“You know, we really have played a lot of football together,” Barlett said. “Luckily, we haven’t had too many major injuries that have impacted. When you have a group like this, that plays so many snaps together, it’s definitely very promising.”

The experience on the offensive line has given Elliott the freedom to spend more time with other positions. When he first arrived, he was the de facto line coach and put in a lot of practice time with the guys up front.

“Not taking anything away from the offensive line coaches that we’ve had here, but it was hard for me early on to turn the offensive line completely loose,” Elliott said. “Just making sure they were coached correctly and making sure they were prepared for the schemes that I wanted to use. As those guys have gotten so good and so familiar, I can go and coach the scout team O-line against the defense.

“I don’t feel like I have to be there. I feel like I can turn them loose and let them go be who they are because they have great experience and knowledge of what we’re doing.”

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