Wrapping up Georgia State’s football season and looking ahead to 2013

There were many reasons Georgia State’s football team slumped to a 1-10 record in 2012, according to Bill Curry, who retired from coaching after last week’s loss at Maine.

• Injuries wiped out the defensive line.

• Inexperienced quarterbacks.

• A spiritual disconnect.

All three combined to take what could have been a happy send-off for Curry and from the Colonial Athletic Association, instead turning it into a “what are we in for” dread with the team next year moving to the Sun Belt Conference, where the competition will be tougher.

Curry took the blame for the failures.

“Each of us can share responsibility but the head coach is primary,” he said.

The good news is just 12 players used up their eligibility, meaning the next coach, whom athletic director Cheryl Levick hopes to hire sooner rather than later, will inherit a roster that has gained a lot of experience. The bad news is the team’s record has gotten progressively worse, leading to questions of how much good will that experience be and how can it be applied within the next coach’s system?

As the season continued its downward spiral, the problems became a chicken-or-the-egg thing: was the offense’s lack of punch in the first half (outscored by 160 points) of most games putting the defense in bad situations, which caused the team to consistently fall behind? Or was the defense constantly getting blitzed early, forcing the offense to abandon its game plan? Either way, it turned into a cycle that fed on itself in most games, resulting in the team losing by an average of more than 20 points per game.

After going 3-8 in 2011, the team needed to replace its defensive coordinator and quarterback, which was a carousel. Anthony Midget was promoted to lead the defense and redshirt freshman Ben McLane beat Kelton Hill for the starting quarterback position. Hill was the presumed starter after playing well in the final few games of the 2011 season. But McLane looked polished in the drills, completing pass after pass.

Curry and offensive coordinator John Bond expected that McLane, accurate in practice, would complete 65 percent of his passes in the games and that running back Donald Russell would surpass 1,000 rushing yards. The defense changed systems, adopting a 4-2-5 that would take advantage of the players’ speed, which should have resulted in more big plays.

None of those things happened.

McLane, who struggled with accuracy and turnovers (remember the fumbles at Tennessee) was replaced by Ronnie Bell, another redshirt freshman, and then won the job back when Bell proved inconsistent. In between, Hill was moved to defensive back/safety for a week before eventually moving to wide receiver.

McLane, who settled down in the last half of the season, and Bell each completed 50.7 percent of their passes (odd, I know). They combined to throw 21 interceptions.

Russell, a senior, had a chance to crack 1,000 yards before suffering a season- ending injury in the loss to Villanova. He finished with 747 yards. Travis Evans replaced him after the injury and finished 323 yards. He has one year of eligibility remaining.

Both quarterbacks showed promise when the wide receivers weren’t hurting them by dropping numerous catchable balls. McLane hit Albert Wilson for several big plays, including a 93-yard touchdown pass against the Monarchs. But it wouldn’t be surprising to see Hill moved back to quarterback by the next coaching staff. But much will depend upon the type of offense that is used. All three may be pushed by Oshay Carter, a long-time commitment to the Panthers.

“We needed consistency in the quarterback play,” Curry said. “We got it at times, but we needed it all the time. I’m not blaming the quarterbacks, I’m blaming us.”

Fans were critical of Bond all year, who seemed to prefer using the pass to set up the run, which looked like the strength of the team in preseason, rather than the run to set up the pass. At the time, Bond faced a tough choice: Russell seemed like the best weapon on offense, but the wide receivers, when healthy, were talented and deep.

The wide receivers were also hurt by injuries. Danny Williams missed several games because of an injured ankle. Jordan Giles suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in week 2 against the Vols. The group is supposed to return intact.

The line was also suspect, allowing 28 sacks and creating holes that led to an average of 3.4 rushing yards per game. All five starters return.

While the offense had its share of injuries, the defense was decimated, particularly the line, which started with so much hope. The group was strengthened by the offseason transfers Theo Agnew (Massachusetts) and Nermin Delic (Kentucky) until the NCAA ruled that Delic couldn’t play.

Agnew was moved from tackle, his natural position, to defensive end, where the squad was thin. Injuries then wiped out most of the line. First, tackle David Huey suffered a season-ending injury. Tackle Joe Lockley didn’t play in the last few games because of an injury. Terrance Woodard played the last half of the season with one healthy ankle, which affected his ability, but he was still considered the unit’s best player. Agnew was moved back to defensive tackle for the final few games, forcing the coaching staff to make all sorts of changes to cover, including moving a tight end to defensive end. The line won’t lose anyone and should benefit from the addition of Delic as well as the experience that several freshmen (Melvin King, Lockley) earned.

“We couldn’t afford to lose those people in droves,” Curry said, nothing the team doesn’t use injuries as an excuse before saying that “we ran out of guys, literally.”

The linebackers, a group composed of mostly undersized players, had trouble at the point of attack because of the injuries to line, leaving them to try to take on blockers. Partially as a result, the defense gave up an average of 235.5 rushing yards per game. The linebackers lose just two players.

The secondary, expected to be the strength of the defense, was also affected by the injuries. They struggled at the beginning of the year, starting with cornerback Isaiah Howard getting burned for a 72-yard touchdown on South Carolina State’s first series. Howard was later kicked off the team for a “violation of team rules,” shortly after he sent out a series of tweets criticizing Georgia State’s athletic administration. Because the defense couldn’t generate a consistent pass rush (10 sacks), which left the secondary exposed (10 interceptions; 234.6 passing yards per game). The unit will lose two starters in the secondary.

The special teams showed improvement, with punter Matt Hubbard taking over that role and having a year that could result in national awards. He averaged 42 yards per punt with a 37.4 net-punt average. Wil Lutz took over the placekicking duties and hit four of his seven field-goal attempts. Both players should return.

Lastly, Curry rued his inability to connect with the team, saying that he could never make the players understand the urgency they needed to play with.

“The kind of thing where you suck it up no matter what, and keep on going and play lights out no matter how discouraging it seems,” Curry said. “We never developed that and that’s my responsibility.”

There’s one more thing that may have contributed to the results of this season: the strength and conditioning program in 2010 and 2011.

Before Ben Pollard was hired to take over that area in July 2011, the voluntary offseason workout program was focused more on improving endurance than improving speed, quick-bursts and power, the actions that define football plays.

The NCAA mandates that offseason workout programs are voluntary. No attendance can be taken. No coaches, other than the S&C coach, can attend.

But coaches didn’t need to attend those sessions to see the results on the practice field. Curry said that Pollard wouldn’t have been hired had he been satisfied with what was going on. It was more evident when earlier this year Lockley, a freshman, was already the strongest player on a team that had 12 seniors and more than 25 juniors who had been in the program for at least three years.

Curry acknowledged earlier this week that the lack of the cumulative effect of three years in a program like Pollard’s may have been a factor in this year’s results. But he hoped that the “tremendous work” done by Pollard and the players earlier this year would lead to improved results.

“This offseason was so terrific that we felt like we made up a lot of ground,” he said.

Curry believes that next year’s team has the potential to turn around the program’s direction, as long as the next coach “keeps the hammer down” and does things the way he wants them done.

“They don’t practice like a losing team,” he said. “They will come out and work hard. Continue to build on that and continue to emphasize that the next step for this program is to take the practice performance into games.”

37 comments Add your comment

E-Roll

November 14th, 2012
10:32 am

Only place we can go at this point is up. I don’t expect to win the Sun Belt Conference next year nor do I expect us to get blown out of every game. Competitive games and a sign that the program is advancing and not regressing is OK for the first year of D1 football with me. Good luck whomever our new coach is!

Chuck

November 14th, 2012
10:48 am

Sounds like you are setting yourself up for disappointment E-Roll.

tron

November 14th, 2012
11:33 am

practice? we’re talking about practice?

eagle 1

November 14th, 2012
12:33 pm

Anyone could see this coming – a huge step up in competition going into the CAA! Look for another 10 losses next year in D-1. You can’t just build a program overnight. Hiring the right coach who can convince some of the ATL high school talent to stay at home will be vital!

STATEment

November 14th, 2012
12:56 pm

Anyone heard any names for the coaching position?

Doug Roberson

November 14th, 2012
12:57 pm

Nothing that’s legitimate.

Derek Dooley

November 14th, 2012
1:00 pm

Cheryl said I performed very well in my interview on September 8th. See you again soon, Panther fans.

John L Smith

November 14th, 2012
1:31 pm

I will soon be available once the Hawgs season is over, but remember- I am bankrupt, so I’ll need a big contract! Seriously, Ga State has bitten off more than it can chew by moving up too fast. The Sun Belt is cetainly better than the Colonial, and I’m not sure GSU can even win one conference game next year. I believe a coach who won an NCAA FBS national title just two years ago will soon be looking for work.

GaDawg

November 14th, 2012
2:18 pm

I would hope the new coach has no Curry connections.

GSU or GSU

November 14th, 2012
2:53 pm

So I have a question, I went to the other GSU school. “The other school” has been trying to move up to 1-A status for a long time now at least from what I read online, however G State went to 1-A status just last year and now they are moving up to another conference already all this quickly? How come they are moving up faster than the other GSU school? Is because of finances or because they play in the dome? I have heard they average less in attendance at games then the other GSU but still are in 1-A and not 1-AA?

Just curious for Mr. Robinson opinion on this. I like UGA the best out off all the colleges in Georgia anyway.

Happy Wednesday!

STATEment

November 14th, 2012
3:17 pm

All based on potential and we have more of it in Atlanta. That being said, people like you at Georgia State and Georgia Southern are the reason both schools aren’t more successful…”I went to Georgia Southern, but I like UGA best out of all colleges in Georgia anyway.” Sad…very sad. This isn’t professional sports, support the school you went to.

Mike S

November 14th, 2012
3:43 pm

GSU or GSU……your mom called. She left your lunch (soup and sandwich) by the computer in the basement. Dude, stick to the comic book websites….your knowledge will show up better there.

Gene Chizik

November 14th, 2012
4:07 pm

I’ll be available after December 1st. I like Atlanta. Great place.

Tim

November 14th, 2012
4:08 pm

Why in heaven’t name did the Leadership ? At Ga State think it would be a good idea to start football? Any why would they want to move to a more difficult division? Big waste of students’ money for the athletic fee they charge and for the school as a whole.

GSU Alum

November 14th, 2012
4:41 pm

GSU should have focused their energy on building a superior hoops program. Can anyone tell me the average attendance at the football home games? I suspect we would be better served playing at Grady High School.

BigBird73

November 14th, 2012
4:45 pm

Has a team ever joined a conference, played a full season, won only one game and left????
Hilaraious, and pathetic. Go Georgia Southern !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

To GSU Alum

November 14th, 2012
6:05 pm

We do have a good basketball program you idiot. So I guess Ga Southern should quit playing basketball with your logic because their team is awful. State plays Southern again this year and will beat them easily that is if they have a team. State beat them by 20 points last year.

So GSU Alum what do you have to say about that?

No response…………………………… begin CPR

Genius

November 14th, 2012
6:12 pm

Are you really criticizing Georgia Southern’s basketball team? You were down 36-2 to BYU last night. Your team is 0-2 and sucks. But hey, at least both of your teams can enjoy their losing seasons together.

Paddy

November 14th, 2012
6:13 pm

Not to worry!!!!!!!The Athletic Dept will have a full year to get that ‘Game Experience’ atmosphere to a fever pitch. They won’t sell any tickets but those that do come will love the atmosphere!!!!!!!!!! Thats PRIORITY ONE, so they claim. Can anyone say, ‘cart before the horse’?

Just saying

November 14th, 2012
8:53 pm

As a GA ST alumni, It’s a sad day in muddville…. They have already fallen behind with the class of 2013….. Cheryl, if your contract was based on performance, you woud be owing us money……Still can’t believe the 2,500 clothing allowance.. come on woman… are you kidding, taking advantage of your position….

football101

November 14th, 2012
11:30 pm

BLT

November 14th, 2012
11:47 pm

Where’s GSUBen(ster)?

BLT

November 14th, 2012
11:48 pm

Where’s GSUbaseballalumy?

BLT

November 14th, 2012
11:48 pm

Where are all the chest beaters?

BLT

November 14th, 2012
11:50 pm

You know you lost fans by trashing Tech?

BLT

November 14th, 2012
11:51 pm

And BTW Doug, you forgot to set the clock back.

BLT

November 14th, 2012
11:54 pm

Oh well, rest assured that no Tech fan will ever waste their time watching the panthers. Even if they were interested. Good job!

New coach...

November 15th, 2012
12:21 am

Derek Dooley?!? Please no.

That’s the kind of stupid idea that only comes from panthertalk.

Bill, here's a brick for you

November 15th, 2012
1:19 am

And your lousy coaching record cept for the 3 yr Bama stint with Perkin’s boy’s.

Derek Dooley

November 15th, 2012
9:37 am

Paddy

November 15th, 2012
9:40 am

Just saying……. I don’t belive the $2,500 allowance is excessive. It is common practice for that level of executive to ask for and receive.

Astonishing Werepanther

November 15th, 2012
12:45 pm

Nice write-up, Doug. I’m keeping the faith and, at the very least, enjoying the positives we’ve been able to see as a result of the changing athletic focus over the past few years.

football101.

November 15th, 2012
3:38 pm

Dudley Dawson

November 17th, 2012
2:14 pm

If this years team played the first season schedule, the record would have been better. They played a slate of top 20 BCS teams and got spanked. Things wil get better over time.

Panther Phil

November 17th, 2012
6:55 pm

Curry in no way was responsible for this season. No coach with that schedual was going to win. It is all about starting a program. Play as many king kongs and get your brains beat in and collect the money and invest for the future is the goal.

Just a fan

November 20th, 2012
12:50 pm

State… Hire Brian Van Gorder…he will looking for work soon. He can send your program back to the Stone Age.

Ron Hunter

November 20th, 2012
2:38 pm

I will also be coaching football next year, thank you.