I met with three coaches on Wednesday, Jesse Minter, Harold Etheridge and J.D. Williams, and hope to meet with more in the next two weeks. (I also apologize it has taken so long. I had planned to do this in December, but on the day the interviews were scheduled we had a family emergency).
I posted the Minter interview yesterday (the link is above). Etheridge will post on Monday and Williams will post on Tuesday.
1. It’s all about recruiting right now. As you have read and will see, the staff is focused on improving the team’s talent and depth. That’s not a knock on the current roster. It’s more of an obvious understanding that the team, which won one game last year with an FCS schedule and was blown out in many of its games, is headed to the FBS, which won’t be any easier. To compete they will need a better caliber of player.
So far, they seem to be doing well with Signing Day three weeks away. They secured the commitments of a pair of junior college players, quarterback Clay Chastain and defensive lineman George Rogers, which were needed to add depth in two of the biggest problem areas last year.
From the high school ranks, the new staff has commitments at a variety of positions: running back Kyler Neal, defensive lineman Kingsley Ejike, safety Jeremy Fulcher (a rivals two-star prospect), defensive back Trenton Hill, linebacker Kight Dallas (three stars) and offensive lineman Brandon Pertile (two stars). The previous staff, led by Bill Curry, also secured commitments from notables such as quarterback Oshay Carter (two stars) and a pair of two-star wide receivers in Devonte Washington and Calvain Holmes.
So it would seem, if the commitments hold, there will be needed infusions of talent (as Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson says every Signing Day: all of these players come highly recommended by the current staff), which will help the depth.
The staff seem impressed by the fertile recruiting ground in Atlanta, which one assistant compared to Dallas and Los Angeles for the richness and the depth of players.
Miles made a point of saying in his introductory press conference that they want to build a fence around Georgia. It’s something most new coaches say about whatever area they are in. It’ll be interesting to see how successful Miles and his staff will be.
The staff can’t afford too many misses with this class, something that has been a problem with previous classes at Georgia State, which partly explains last year’s record.
2. They seem confident. A few of the coaches that are on staff worked with Trent Miles at Indiana State. The story of what Miles inherited and what he turned his alma mater into has been told many times, but to sum up: Indiana State may have been the worst program (FBS or FCS) in the country. Facilities were awful. Some attitudes were just as bad.
Miles had them winning within three years and he didn’t cut corners. I don’t think he faces the same level of challenge at Georgia State, which has impressive facilities, but does need to adopt a new winning culture.
Minter said the turnaround on defense will start up front and they will inherit a few potential cornerstone players which will help. Nermin Delic, a transfer from Kentucky who sat out last per NCAA transfer rules, impressed on the practice team last year. Pairing him with Theo Agnew inside (who thrived at tackle after starting the season at end) could shore up a run defense that was porous last year. Throw in tackles Rogers, David Huey, Terance Woodard and Joe Lockley and the team may be able to rotate lots of players on the line throughout the game, something they couldn’t do last year.
I wouldn’t be surprised if one of those guys moves to the offensive line, specifically guard, to improve the depth there.
Joe Peterson had a solid year at linebacker, forming a nice tandem with Robert Ferguson.
New coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski will have some interesting challenges on offense.
Neither Ben McLane nor Ronnie Bell at quarterback showed consistency last year. Of course, they were also both redshirt freshmen. Because the team fell behind so quickly in so many games McLane or Bell were usually forced into difficult situations. Instead of completing 65 percent of their passes, which was the goal set in the preseason, they completed slightly better than 50 percent. The competition, which will include Chastain, should be wide open. But Jagodzinski has a pedigree of success that could help one of the quarterbacks step forward and take the job.
Running back Donald Russell is gone, but Travis Evans played well toward the end of the year. The team returns a lot of depth on the line in tackles Grant King and Ulrick John, and center/guard Michael Davis, and at wide receiver with Albert Wilson, Danny Williams and Kelton Hill (assuming he stays at wide receiver and doesn’t move back to quarterback).
3. They want strength and speed. The team must improve its strength and speed, either through workouts with Ben Pollard, or by recruiting.
It seemed odd last year that a true freshman, Lockley, was already the strongest player on a team that had numerous upperclassmen who had been in the program (but not will Pollard) for several years.
For whatever reason, both lines had trouble at the point of attack last year. If Miles wants to run the ball and to stop the run, the team can’t get outmuscled, especially considering the quality of the opponents will be much improved.
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu