Despite knowing that the season isn’t living up to even the most modest expectations and that a new coach and staff will soon be moving into the digs at 188 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Georgia State’s players say they don’t view the final games as an audition for the next leader.
They are still about the team. They still want the victory more than the personal moments that may pop on film.
“Everybody is still pushing,” defensive lineman Theo Agnew said. “Undoubtedly you have some people that are upset. We haven’t been doing that well this season, but … we are going to ride this thing until the wheels come off.
“Coach (Bill) Curry said that he’s not going to give up on us and we aren’t going to give up on him either. We know he’s leaving and all that but it’s us, it’s everybody out there for each other. I say that to the team a lot,’ I’ll keep playing for y’all because I know y’all would do the same.’ ”
Georgia State has three games to keep pushing, starting Saturday at James Madison, followed by the home-finale at Old Dominion and the season-ending game at Maine, the last in Curry’s career. He announced in August that he is retiring from coaching after the season.
Though the team is 1-7 and has been outscored by 156 points, the coaches say they haven’t heard anyone talk about playing for next year.
“I don’t think it’s any motivation or sense in worrying about next year,” defensive coordinator Anthony Midget said. “We have to focus on the now, just trying to improve each week and trying to get better.”
But even Curry said he’s not naïve to think someone hasn’t considered what a strong finish could mean for next year.
“I would like for them to play hard for each other and all the noble principles we believe in but I’m a pragmatist and know that we are all human,” he said. “It might just be that somebody will think the other coaches will watch this video, so I better put something good on video.”
The next coach will watch the video and may evaluate the players on different criteria than the current staff. But even if the next coach doesn’t like a lot of what he sees, there may not be as much initial turnover as might be expected on a team that has struggled in all phases this year. The NCAA mandates that a team can’t bring in more than 25 scholarships in a class (though that doesn’t include early enrollees). The next coach may be able to secure a few early commitments, but it’s too early to tell. Georgia State is using 68 scholarships this year and plans on using 85 next year as it completes its transition from FCS to FBS. This year’s team has 11 seniors, so the majority of the current roster may return. The junior class has 37 players.
The players do recognize what good performances may mean for their future. Tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi, a senior, said the players know that they need to execute to have a chance at earning, or retaining, a spot. But trying to impress the new boss doesn’t seem to be the focus. Redshirt freshman quarterback Ben McLane said the team wants to salvage the season by winning the next three games.
Anything extra that comes from that is just a few rays of sunshine.
“You don’t want to focus too much on next season, but guys know you still want to play hard so whoever comes in next can build on something positive,” he said. “Hopefully we can give them that.”
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu