Hope you’re looking forward to the Blue-White game at the Georgia Dome Thursday. A few notes gleaned from my visit to 188 MLK Drive (also known as the Georgia State practice facility) Wednesday morning.
1) There was something of a goof with the scheduling of the scrimmage. It turns out that several players have Thursday classes, and NCAA rules (as well as Bill Curry rules) say you can’t miss a class for a practice (which is what the scrimmage is). In the end, it won’t be a disaster. The start of the scrimmage has been pushed back an hour from 6:30 to 7:30, although the whole event begins at 6:30, still. (Though that’s a little like saying a football game that’s scheduled for a noon kickoff actually begins at 11 a.m., because that’s when the teams take the field for warm-ups.)
As I wrote in the story for Thursday’s paper, center Ben Jacoby and guard Joseph Gilbert won’t participate because they have class until 10 p.m. Jacoby and Gilbert, of course, happen to be two anchors of the offensive line and their absence should have a profound impact on how the starting offensive line (and offense in general) performs. For fans, it won’t be the truest indication of the unit’s potential for the fall.
The rest are expected to make it to the dome by 7:15 p.m. I was told that staff simply underestimated the number of players that would have conflicts, but I would venture to guess that all of this was not completely thought out. Perhaps we should all follow the lead of offensive coordinator John Bond.
Quoth the wise coach, “I’m really just not even going to try to worry about it too much.”
2) The most obvious players to watch are Kelton Hill and Bo Schlechter, vying to be the opening-day starter at quarterback. Curry said that Hill took a big lead early, but that Schlechter has made up ground. Both, it sounds like, are doing a lot more of the off-the-field work necessary to play at this level.
Said Bond of Hill, “I think he’s finally figured out at this level you’ve got to study. If you don’t, you’re never going to be as good as you can be.”
Hill has also tightened up his release and is throwing with more accuracy than when you saw him last.
“Coach Bond’s going to open up his playbook a little more, so we can do a lot more things with me at quarterback, me or Bo,” Hill said. “We’re loking forward to the season and what we can do.”
3) Some position changes to note: Nate Anthony has gone from wide receiver to cornerback and has made enough strides that he’ll likely challenge for playing time in the fall. Running back Sam Burkhalter has switched to inside linebacker and seems to be liking it there and producing. Offensive lineman Jon Marshall Sauls has switched to defensive tackle.
Maybe the most interesting to me was one made in the middle of spring practice. Defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi and end Kalan Jenkins have switched places. On the face, it doesn’t make sense. Bilukidi is 6-foot-5, 285 pounds, a more likely body type for playing in the pit than Jenkins (6-5, 245), who came to Georgia State as a tight end, after all.
We’ll yield the floor to defensive coordinator John Thompson.
“It’s going ot pay off. Kalan’s a battler in there; he is. He’s undersized but he’s a dadgum fighter and Christo outside there is a force. He’s a good edge pass rusher and he can set an anchor out there in our run.”
Thompson said Jenkins has become more of a playmaker at tackle and he thinks Bilukidi is a better end than a tackle. It bears watching.
4) I spoke with Burkhalter, who shared some insights about his switch. He’s basically played offense since high school. He played some defense in high school at Blessed Trinity, but said he was basically told “Stand in the middle and don’t let anyone by you.”
Given that, Burkhalter said his first day of spring, “I thought I could just go out there and play football, but there’s a lot more to it than that.”
He has made strides, though, and will bring some speed and a physical style to the position.
“It’s fun,” he said. “You definitely get to hit a lot, which I like to do. That’s the most fun aspect of it.”
5) Interesting quote from Thompson:
“I think for the most part we’ve started playing run defense a little better. We understood how everybody fit in the defense, what their responsibility was. Instead of doing a little bit of everything, I think we’ve gotten better at a few things.”
You’ll remember that the defense had a lot of problems knowing the scheme and then playing it on its way to giving up 187.4 rushing yards per game.
6) Safety Fred Barnes has left the team. The Panthers’ leading tackler last year, Barnes was suspended for all of spring practice and then the first two games of the season. Barnes is apparently going to transfer and get a fresh start elsewhere. And, if you’re wondering, no word on Star Jackson’s transfer plans.
7) If you can’t be there Thursday, you can catch Dave Cohen’s radio call on 1160-AM or 1690-AM. The broadcast goes on the air at 7 p.m.
We’ll give the last word to running back Parris Lee: “I’m excited. I love to play for the fans. I know my teammates love to play for the fans. I’m just excited about the whole deal.”
I think Parris is excited. Are you?