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Georgia Southern's introduction to becoming an FBS school hasn't been that bad. The Eagles went 9-3 the first year and then 9-4 last year in their first bowl-eligible season, beating Bowling Green in the GoDaddy Bowl. Because of that success, they had to find a new head coach. Tyson Summers steps in as the lead man, an interesting choice as he's the former defensive coordinator at Colorado State and UCF.
Summers already said he plans to pass the ball more, which goes against the team's recent triple-option identity. The Eagles only attempted 137 passes in all last season, while running it 728 times. For a group that scored 36.5 points per game, that's not too bad. They led the nation with 363 rushing yards per game.
At the least, Summers has faith in the passing game behind Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw, the two quarterbacks that have led the way the last two years. Of course, they haven't thrown all that much. Returning starters at wide receiver will help in BJ Johnson (16 receptions, 260 yards) and Myles Campbell (130 yards). Granted, they had 4 TDs compared to 10 INTs last year as a team.
Either way, the ground game will be Georgia Southern's go-to once again with Matt Breida (1,608 yards, 17 TDs, 7.9 yards per carry). His backups are still there to help in LA Ramsby (816 yards, 13 TDs) and Wesley Fields (682 yards, 7 TDs). The only question is along the line where the Eagles may be starting a couple underclassmen at each guard spot. But to help, senior center Andy Kwon will hold the base of the line together.
While the offense has some questions, the defense is pretty straightforward with Summers already a defensive guy. The Eagles gave up 23.5 points per game last year, second best in the Sun Belt. They return a decent amount of players, most notably up front.
Along the line, the talent is immediate with seniors in end Bernard Dawson and tackle Jay Ellison. And that's just the start of the experience for these guys. Linebacker is set with the leader of the defense in Ironhead Gallon and Florida State transfer Ukeme Eligwe. Secondary has some questions with new faces, but at least has multiple seniors in line to start, including at safety with former QB Vegas Harley stepping in.
Summers has the big task of not letting this team's success slip away in one season. The schedule doesn't help much either with seven road games. The Eagles need to win their first three games because after that, it's a pure gauntlet in the middle of the year. They get four straight road games (including Western Michigan, Georgia Tech) and then host the Sun Belt favorite Appalachian State and then travel again to Ole Miss. Georgia Southern may only get one win from that stretch. To become bowl eligible, they'll need to close the season strong, which is possible.
Reaching nine wins will be tough, as will winning the Sun Belt, but this team should be bowl eligible again, as long as Summers doesn't focus too much on the pass.
The Eagles have the third-best odds to win the conference, but given the schedule, it wouldn't be wise to take them to win it all. They went 6-2 last year without a road game at Arkansas State on the schedule.
2016 Georgia Southern Eagles Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. Savannah State
Sept. 10 at South Alabama
Sept. 17 vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 24 at Western Michigan
Oct. 5 at Arkansas State
Oct. 15 at Georgia State
Oct. 22 at New Mexico State
Oct. 27 vs. Appalachian State
Nov. 5 at Ole Miss
Nov. 10 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Nov. 19 at Georgia State
Dec. 3 vs. Troy
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