“It’s one of the more thrilling times of the year if you’re a football coach and you’re on the eve of starting practice,” said Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott, who begins his sixth season. “There are a lot of emotions running through you, and I think our football team has the same effect and the same feeling. A lot of momentum heading into this fall camp and looking forward to getting started.”
There are few holes on offense or defense.
The offense returns quarterback Darren Grainger, who took the job from incumbent Quad Brown a year ago and has emerged as one of the team’s leaders. Running backs Tucker “The Trucker” Gregg and Jamyest Williams bring a thunder-and-lightning approach, and there was only one graduation loss from an experienced offensive line.
The defense, which has ranked among the nation’s best in sacks the past two seasons, also is stacked. There are outstanding linebackers in Muhammad, Blake Carroll and Jordan Veneziale, cornerback Qua White and safety Antavious Lane, who has proved to be a turnover machine.
Lane said, “This year we became a lot closer as a unit, as a coaching staff to the players … everybody. I’m just excited to see what this year will bring. I feel like we’ve got the depth at everybody. We’re just ready. I’m excited.”
The main concerns are finding someone to replace five-year starting guard Shamarious Gilmore, who is in training camp with the Seattle Seahawks. Elliott said the staff will spend time evaluating players and trying see if makes sense to make some strategic shifts up front.
On defense the biggest hole may be in the secondary, where super senior Chris Moore graduated at safety. The veteran was a solid player who helped in the development of Lane. He will likely be replaced by sophomore Jalen Tate.
The other question mark is at placekicker, where the dependable Noel Ruiz graduated. Punter Michael Hayes, who was signed as a kicker, is scheduled to handle the punting and kicking duties.
Elliott sees the practices leading to the season opener against South Carolina on Sept. 3 as the time to fill those few gaps and set the tone for the season.
“Each and every year your team is different,” Elliott said. “You’ve got to grow and you’ve got to develop. You really find out what your team is going to become about three or four games into it. It’s kind of crazy because you say it’s your report date or your first date of practice, when you know all year, your players have been around here. They’ve been practicing, they’ve been doing their player-led practices. I think we’ve had a real good offseason, a really good summer season, and we’re ready to get started in practice.”