After a 3-8 record punctuated by another offseason of disciplinary problems, those questions haven’t gone away as the Panthers begin practice on Wednesday. They have less than four weeks before they open the season hosting S.C. State on Aug. 30 at the Georgia Dome. They will then dive into their first and last Colonial Athletic Association in a schedule that should be much more difficult than last year’s. The Panthers are joining the Sun Belt next year.
Here’s the next part in the five-part look at August’s practices:
Can the defense improve?
Last year’s unit gave up 31.2 points and 403.3 yards per game. It had trouble stopping the run — 180.5 rushing yards and 24 rushing touchdowns – and trouble finishing games – 123 points allowed in the fourth quarter, the worst of any quarter. Defensive coordinator John Thompson, who tried many schemes, resigned to accept the same job at Arkansas State. Anthony Midget was promoted into his first coordinator’s role and decided to continue teaching the 4-2-5 system, which Thompson elected to install before he left. The goal is try to take advantage of GSU’s speed.
Midget’s job hasn’t gotten easier with the dismissal of three players projected to start: linebacker Dexter Moody, who led the team with 65 tackles last year, and ends A.J. Portee and Qwontez Mallory. Those losses leave him with linebacker Mark Hogan as the only returning starter among the front seven. The secondary is the strongest it has ever been with three starters returning.
“The defense has to grow up in a hurry,” coach Bill Curry said. “We have worked since the day the last season was over to address each of those areas.”
Curry said the team will likely have to use some true freshmen, potentially defensive tackle Joe Lockley, and redshirt freshmen David Huey and John Kelly.
Hogan said the defense has spent time bonding during the offseason. He said the players are also much stronger than they were the previous two years after getting a full offseason in strength and conditioning coach Ben Pollard’s workout program.
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu.