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Georgia Southern-Western Michigan Preview Q&A With Hustle Belt

The Eagles look to straighten the ship in week 2 as they face WMU and their rising coach PJ Fleck at home. Here's a look at the matchup through the eyes of Hustle Belt's Western Michigan writer Brandon Fitzsimons.

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HW: PJ Fleck may be the hottest young coach in the country with the way he has recruited and won football games. What are your thoughts on him and how long do you think he'll stay at Western Michigan?

BF: When I first met Fleck, I thought he was way over the top and in way over his head.  Needless to say, I've shut up.  The man can coach, and has solid X's and O's guys to coordinate the parts of the game that he isn't so hot at.  He has a perfect coaching staff for him, and he recruits his pants off.  Fleck will be a solid program builder, but it's still just Year 3 (or Year 2 if you follow the "Year 1 is really Year 0" thinking), and he still hasn't beaten the top teams in the MAC, or a P5 school of any kind (looking at you, Purdue).  Until he does that, he's just a "Coach on the Rise".

Ideally, I see him staying around 7-8 years total before leaving.  It seems like he's in for the long haul, but WMU can't pay Power 5 money, and eventually he'll go the Chris Petersen way and leave for greener pastures.  Which is fine, because it's the circle of life in the MAC, but building the program into a powerhouse first would be great.

That said, watch him leave after next year and WMU sinks back into the darkness.

HW: Darius Phillips was one of the biggest highlight of the Michigan State game thanks to his 185 return yards. Just how scared should Georgia Southern fans be of this guy?

BF: He's fast.  He's really fast  He's so fast, he makes fast people look not fast!!

Honestly, it all depends on the blocking.  Plus, I think the Eagles have more speed on special teams than Michigan State might (more strength and fundamentals), so not too worried.  That said, if Phillips gets a hole, he could easily take one back.  Still a big "if" in today's day and age.

HW: At the risk of sounding cliche, the weather in Statesboro Georgia may be quite a shock for WMUs players. Are you concerned about cramping/general discomfort in the South Georgia heat?

BF: Always.  You always worry about tiring players out and cramping.  That said, I think WMU's conditioning is better than in the past (as shown by hanging with Michigan State for four quarters versus two or three) and I think the weather won't play as big a factor as it should.  Add in the fact that the game is at 6 rather than 3 or noon, and I think the Broncos should be fine in that South Georgia heat.

HW: Easy one: How awesome was it to have a home game against Michigan State? Georgia Southern fans would kill to have that caliber of opponent in Paulson Stadium.

BF: Easily one of the top moments of my time at Western Michigan and even possibly my life (thank you, single life).  Waldo Stadium was mostly packed (thanks, students) and the atmosphere was incredible.  Getting to cover that game and get pictures and videos from on the field, including THIS GEM?  CoreyDavis One-Handed Juggle Catch It was unreal.  Add in the fact that WMU held their ground and nearly made it a one-score game with two minutes to go and it was just unforgettable.  Incredible opener.

HW: Quarterback Zach Terrell had a hell of a night last Friday as he posted 365 passing yards against a team known for its defense. Do you expect another big outing against GSU?

BF: Terrell is a sneaky good quarterback.  He doesn't wow you with lots of bombs or his legs, but he's insanely smart.  He works the pocket how he needs to, makes the throws he knows he can make, and doesn't make dumb decisions ever.  His worst mistake of the night against Michigan State was over-throwing a fade to Corey Davis with two minutes left.  THAT'S IT.  He usually doesn't sling it like he did on Friday - he set career highs for completions and attempts - but he can tear apart a defense if he has time because he has incredible receivers to throw to.

HW: On the flip side, 18 yards rushing is not going to win you many football games. How can WMU improve on the ground in week 2?

BF: By not playing Michigan State.

But really, people have to remember that WMU still went up against one of the best Front 7's IN THE COUNTRY.  18 rushing yards sucks (note that a few of the yards are tacked off for Terrell sacks), but hey, not many G5 teams will run well on the Spartans.  And when you can sling it with Terrell, why run? The Broncos will be fine rushing on Saturday, with reigning MAC Player of the Year Jarvion Franklin appearing to be fine after suffering a minor concussion in the 3rd quarter of Friday's game.  The line will be able to block better, and I expect Franklin to go for 100 after being held to 23 on 8 *shudders*

HW: BONUS: What is the first thought that comes to mind when you hear "Georgia Southern" or "South Georgia?" As a born and bred Southerner, when I hear "Western Michigan" my first thought is "cold." 

BF: At the risk of sounding crazy, I think Florida, peaches, and that baby blue in the logo.  And not the Florida game, but just Florida.  I actually drove through Georgia for the first time in my life this past year en route to and from Miami for a vacation (wooooooooo Bahamas!), and this is how I describe that land:  (1) I-95 side is trees and forests and beautiful and (2) I-75 side is rural Alabama.    /ducks