Four Georgia State players, including starting quarterback Drew Little, have been suspended for various lengths of time, a fifth dismissed and quarterback Star Jackson has left the team.
Little will miss spring practice and the first four games of the 2011 season, leaving the Panthers without arguably their most dependable player from the 2010 season for the season opener against Clark Atlanta as well as key matchups with Old Dominion, Jacksonville State and Houston.
“It’s a fundamental part of building a team,” coach Bill Curry said. “You build in discipline not by writing up a set of rules or by standing up and saying it to the players. You do it by enforcing the rules and making sure they apply to everybody.”
Curry also dismissed linebacker Olufemi Opanubi from the team. Other players suspended are safety Fred Barnes (spring practice, first two games) and wide receiver Danny Williams and linebacker Evan Bostic (both first week of spring practice).
All were for violations of team rules. None involve criminal activity. Curry, who said the suspensions were painful for him, would not comment on the violations beyond that.
“These are all good guys, these are all people we want here and have wanted here,” Curry said. “When they make mistakes, they have to learn that there are consequences and it’s my job to see that they do, even though it’s unpleasant.”
It’s a considerable blow for the team, which will start spring practice March 21. Opanubi, Barnes, Williams and Bostic all started and were among the team’s best players in Georgia State’s inaugural season.
Jackson, who was a ballyhooed transfer from Alabama last summer, played four games off the bench after nearly winning the starting job in preseason practice. He faces limited options to continue playing, as he would have to sit out a year if he transferred to another NCAA school and then only have one year of eligibility remaining. Cornerback Justin Hughes, a starter, has also left the team.
Curry said that Jackson is leaving for personal issues.
“I’m very sad about that,” Curry said. “We’re very sorry. We were thrilled when he came here. He is a tremendous talent. We wish him well. We’re going to help him with whatever he does next.”
Bo Schlechter will return to quarterback, a move that Curry said would have happened regardless of the shortage. Schlechter began fall practice in 2010 as a quarterback but then switched to wide receiver and also punted. He and Kelton Hill will be the team’s only two quarterbacks at spring practice.
The team will bring in Brookwood High quarterback Ben McLane in the fall.
Said Curry of Little, “He’ll have the opportunity to fight his way back and he’s indicated to me that’s exactly what he intends to do.”
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