Countdown to Kickoff: 32 Days
As our 100 Days to Kickoff continues on, we begin our opponent previews to provide a quick look at each of the teams coming up on our schedule this season. Each team has changed and provides new challenges than in years past, so this week is all about learning about those changes and learning exactly what Georgia Tech’s opponents have to offer.
2016 Opponent Previews - Georgia Southern
HC Willie Fritz This is one of the major losses here. Following Jeff Monken’s departure to Army, many were unsure of how Southern’s transition to FBS football would go. But once Fritz took over and Southern did nothing but get better, people were confident in Fritz’s abilities as a coach (and as a recruiter). Following an odd departure for Tulane, Fritz is now replaced by defensive-minded head coach Tyson Summers (who I will talk about later).
LG Darien Foreman Foreman is Southern’s biggest loss on the offensive side of the ball. He was a 1st-team All-Sun Belt player for the Eagles last year and easily the best player on the line for them. It’ll be worth keeping an eye on them to see how he gets replaced.
LB Antwione Williams With the exception of the mass exodus of defensive backs, losing Antwione Williams from this defense is what hurts the Eagles the most. Last season, Williams was phenomenal, finishing with 78.5 tackles, 10.5 TFL, four sacks, three pass break-ups and four forced fumbles. He was a bit of a do-it-all guy for the Eagles and they will miss him a lot.
DBs Matt Dobson (FS), Antonio Glover (SS), Darrius White (CB) Losing three defensive backs is never something you want to do, especially when those three are as good as these guys were last season. The three combined for 119.5 tackles, 4.5 TFL, one sack, 10 interceptions, 17 pass break-ups and one forced fumble. So yeah, losing these three guys hurts a little bit.
QB Kevin Ellison Looking more on the bright side of who is coming back, first up we have Kevin Ellison. Though he isn’t much of a passer, he is a dynamite runner, finishing last season with 743 yards (6.8 yards/carry) and eight touchdowns. He’s one of the cornerstones of this offense, and in his senior season, he’s going to be looking to go out in a big way.
HB Matt Breida When people think of the best running backs in the country from last year, they normally think of Derrick Henry, Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, and the like. They are all great, but Matt Breida can have the argument that he should be included in that group too, as he was the most explosive back in the whole country last year, according to the stat of Highlight Yards per Opportunity. You can read more about that right here: Link.
DE Bernard Dawson Georgia Southern returns pretty much their entire defensive line, but the guy that stood out to me was Dawson. Though he’s pretty undersized for a defensive end at 6-foot-1, 248 pounds, Dawson still managed to lead the Eagles in sacks with four. He, along with the rest of the returning linemen, should improve this year.
LB Ironhead Gallon Unfortunately that is not his legal name, but Gallon is still a formidable player, and after Antwione Williams, was the best linebacker the Eagles had to offer. He finished last season with 61 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks and three pass break-ups, and now has some big shoes to fill with Williams gone.
HC Tyson Summers The biggest addition here is the new head coach, Tyson Summers. It puzzled many when the Eagles decided to bring in a defensive-minded head coach, especially since that didn’t exactly work out so well the last time they tried that. I do think this will be different from when they hired VanGorder, though, as I don’t think Summers is going to try to change everything. Summers already has a really good offense in place, so he should just leave it alone.
DLs Darius Roper and Deshon Cooper Roper and Cooper are two JUCO players that the Eagles added in this last class to help bolster the defensive line’s depth.
LB Ukeme Eligwe Eligwe joins the Eagles as a former four-star recruit who transferred from Florida State. He should be able to join the linebackers and help replace the production of Antwione Williams.
CB Monquavion Brinson With the Eagles losing three defensive backs, the new younger defensive backs are going to get an opportunity to show what they’ve got. Though he’s still pretty raw, I think Brinson has the best shot of getting on the field this season of the recruits.
Georgia Southern will be good this year, just like they’ve been the last couple years. I think they should far and away be the favorites to win the Sun Belt this year, and I also think it’s possible that they pull the upset on one of the Power 5 teams that they play this year (Georgia Tech and Ole Miss). They’ve come pretty close to winning some of those in the past couple of years, so it’s definitely possible it could happen this year. I will play it safe with my prediction, though, and say they lose both of those games, along with a stunner against Arkansas State.
Projected Record: 9-3 (7-1 Sun Belt)