Spring enthusiasm high at Georgia State

Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott is dunked with water near the end of the game against Western Kentucky in the LendingTree Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. (Mike Kittrell/AL.com)
Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott is dunked with water near the end of the game against Western Kentucky in the LendingTree Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. (Mike Kittrell/AL.com)

This has been such a pleasant season of spring football for Georgia State, so much that coach Shawn Elliott lost track of how many practices have gone in the book. He didn’t realize the Panthers were involved in their eighth session until he saw that number written on the practice sheet. It’s been an enjoyable time.

“We are having what I would consider a phenomenal spring practice,” Elliott said. “We have such a competitive spirit going on. Everybody is playing at a high level and it’s fun to see.”

Elliott was heartened to overhear a player in practice say, “We’re so hungry.” That aligns with his attitude about workouts.

“They want it,” Elliott said. “There’s a difference between wanting it and needing it and I’m starting to feel like this team needs it.”

Enthusiasm is high for the program that won its last three games, including a bowl game, to go 6-4 in 2020. The Panthers have 11 offensive starters and nine defensive starters back from that team and have used the spring to develop depth and give new faces a chance to grow and take significant snaps.

An important area for depth is the offensive line, where new assistant Eman Naghavi joined the staff from Louisiana-Monroe. Mason Cook, Avery Reece and Jonathan Brown have all taken strides and proving themselves game-worthy.

“They’re not just getting reps, they’re getting quality, competitive reps,” Elliott said. “It’s one thing to put a line on the field and it’s another thing to put a line on the field that can produce.”

Elliott said the quarterback competition has also been intense. Quad Brown remains in the No. 1 spot, but is under pressure from Mikele Colasurdo and transfer Darren Grainger.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever had a solid No. 2 or No. 3 in that room,” Elliott said. “We’ve got three quality quarterbacks. There’s a battle going on in there. I’m anxious to see them scrimmage a little more and see how they perform.”

The other battle is among the receivers, where redshirt freshmen Jacob Freeman, Robert Lewis and Ja’cyais Credle are pushing veterans Sam Pinckney, Cornelius McCoy and Jonathan Ifedi.

“The battle among battles is in the wide receiver’s room,” Elliott said. “I think we’ve got some cats that can go out and play. That’s a big-time battle for playing time.”

On defense, Elliott praised the improvement shown by cornerback Tyler Gore, safety Chris Bacon and Courtney Williams, who was moved to cornerback for additional depth. Gore has become more impactful when making tackles and Bacon has improved his tackling.

Jamil Muhammad, who began last season at quarterback before moving to defense, has been shifted to outside linebacker to take better advantage of his speed and power.

“After eight practices, we’re looking for the same consistency and effort we’ve had,” Elliott said. “If we can continue to do that and move through the spring game, we’ll be happy coaches and happy players. This is a team that has a mindset of its own. We don’t have to lead this team as much. They know exactly what they want and they know exactly how to get there.”

The spring game is April 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Center Parc Stadium. The plans or rosters haven’t been finalized, but Elliott said the format would be two 12-minute quarters in the first half and a running clock in the second.

“We’ll play and let them compete,” Elliott said.

There will be no admission to attend the game. Following the game fans may stay to watch “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” on the stadium’s video board.

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