Georgia State starts spring practices with plenty of work to do

Where to start?

A quarterback competition plus the search for starting offensive and defensive linemen as well as special teams players comprise a normal spring practice curriculum for most Division I football teams. But the situation takes on a different meaning for Georgia State.

The Panthers, who open spring practice Tuesday, must find themselves fast enough before they can prepare for their first game, which is only 23 weeks away.

Such is the vast set of challenges for Georgia State.

“It’s like in the theater when the lights are coming up,” coach Bill Curry said. “I’m very enthusiastic.”

So are his players. Any time they walk into the football offices, the Panthers must pass by customized clocks counting down the days until Sept. 2, when the team plays its first game with Shorter College.

“It’s definitely exciting to see the clocks get lower and lower every day,” quarterback Drew Little said.

But with the countdown comes the responsibility of getting ready to play. Little, Kelton Hill and Bo Schlechter are trying to win the starting quarterback job, all of them redshirt freshmen, each of them with a different style of play.

Little (6 feet 5, 250 pounds) , is a classic, drop-back passer. He finished his career at Henry County High School with 9,003 passing yards and 85 touchdown passes, which is third all-time in state history.

“Drew throws to the right place,” Curry said. “He has a gift for that.”

Hill (5-11, 185) is a combination running and passing threat. He set school records at Lithia Springs where he passed for 2,149 yards and rushed for another 1,012 during his senior season.

“Kelton Hill has unlimited potential,” Curry said. “He does everything well.”

Schlechter (6-3, 210) is the wildcard. He passed for 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns during his senior season at Glades Day School in Wellington, Fla.

“Bo is plenty good enough to compete for the starting job,” Curry said.

Curry said he isn't locked into making a decision during spring practice.

“If somebody grabs the situation, then great,” he said. “If nobody grabs it, then we’ll keep an open competition and we’ll keep it until the day of our first game if we have to."

Schlechter hopes the question gets decided by the end of spring practices.

“Someone will step up,” he said.

The search for starters at the other positions is less glamorous but should be less hectic. Curry believes he has enough wide bodies to fill out the offensive and defensive lines.

“I just want to see more toughness and technique and aggressiveness,” he said.

Curry is determined to make sure that Georgia State will be solid on special teams and also likes the experience the six junior-college players will bring to the Panthers.

“I have no pre-set starters going into spring,” Curry said. “I want somebody to go and step up to the challenge.”

One unwritten rule for Georgia State is the quicker a player can step up and claim the position, the better. After all, the Panthers have plenty of work to do and not a lot of time.

“The best thing I’ve learned about spring practices is that you can improve in the fundamentals,” Curry said. “The question is: Can we get each player to improve by two percent per practice? I think we can.”