Drew Little, at one time suspended for the first four games of Georgia State’s season, will back up starting quarterback Bo Schlechter in Friday’s season opener against Clark Atlanta.
Little was suspended during the offseason by coach Bill Curry for a violation of undisclosed team rules. However, Curry said there were numerous factors that led him to reduce the suspension. The most important was that he said Little endured as much punishment as any player that Curry said he has ever coached without complaining or slacking off. That punishment included missing spring practices, going on more than 30 morning runs, and 20 hours of study hall a week during the spring and summer.
However, just because Little is the backup don’t expect to see him play on Friday. Curry said that Schlechter will play most of the snaps against Clark Atlanta.
Little, a native of McDonough, was last year’s starter, passing for 2,102 yards and 18 touchdowns. He hasn’t been made available to speak to reporters.
Secondly, because backup Kelton Hill was also suspended for at least the opener, Curry said he didn’t think it was fair to force freshman Ben McLane into action and risk depriving him of a redshirt season. Curry said he hasn’t decided if Hill will be forced to sit out any more games.
Should Schlechter need a break or sustain an injury against Clark Atlanta, the Panthers have been working on a “Wildcat” package.
Curry said he would love to play more in-state games, such as the one against Clark Atlanta. However, the CAA schedule the Panthers will add in 2012 will make such in-state games difficult.
Clark Atlanta, Morehouse and Valdosta State, teams Curry said he at one time was interested in scheduling, are Division II programs. Assuming Georgia State would defeat them, it wouldn’t help them earn an at-large berth in the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) playoffs.
Because the CAA is so tough – its teams have won or played for the past five national championships — he said there’s not much incentive to add another good in-state team like Georgia Southern, which has won six national titles, to the schedule as one of the three non-conference games. However, Curry didn’t rule it out. The Panthers played two team from Georgia last season — Shorter (NAIA) and Savannah State (FCS).
Offensive coordinator John Bond and center Ben Jacoby said an improved offensive line should improve the Panthers’ running game this season.
The team averaged 123.3 yards per game last season. Its leading rusher was Hill, a backup quarterback. However, Jacoby said another year of playing together, improved depth and work in the weight room should make for a more effective unit.
“We’re concentrating heavily on the run game,” Jacoby said. “We’ve practiced situations so that we have the experience running plays. The offensive line in particular has been working on keeping the pads low and on the explosion off of the ball. That in combination with the work in strength and conditioning will lead to more yards per carry.”
Bond said because the team had just 29 practices together before last year’s opener it was hard to develop the chemistry necessary to complete some of the blocking schemes. With a fall, spring and August worth of practices, he said the team should be much better at running the ball.
Stopping the run
Defensive coordinator John Thompson said an improved attitude by the defense should reduce the 187.4 rushing yards they allowed per game last season. And he said it’s not fair to blame the defensive line for the issues.
“People can say it’s the D-line or linebackers, but it involves a little bit of everything,” he said. “We’ve made some adjustments to be better against the run. It’s more of a team commitment to play more physical, more gap control, be more responsible.”
He did say that he thinks the defensive line has improved more than any other group. The group shuffled personnel in the offseason, switching Christo Bilukidi to end from tackle, Kalan Jenkins from tackle to nose tackle, and adding transfer A.J. Portee to the other side of the three-man line.
“Our D-line has been more committed to doing the right things,” Thompson said. “We’ve got good things at linebacker and secondary, but the way the game is now, it comes down to being physical up front.”