With Georgia Southern’s bye week coming this Saturday, Eagles’ fans can sit back and enjoy a fine slate of games this weekend. In lieu of a game preview, I decided to put together a mailbag of your most pressing questions about the boys in blue and white.
@underdogdynasty @WatchTheStone Two Q's: If healthy, should this be Favian Upshaw's team? What's wrong with Matt Brieda? #byeweekmailbag— The Dream (@_Shakeem) September 29, 2016
Ah, a good pair of questions to start off on. I’ll answer this one as a two-parter:
Before the season, I said Kevin Ellison should be the starter for the Eagles. Ellison had the best track record and had handled most of the meaningful snaps for Southern since 2014.
However, with the change in offense and the emphasis on the passing game, Upshaw is the better fit for the system, although neither have the accuracy you would look for in a true dual-threat quarterback. If Tyson Summers wants to run a system that incorporates more frequent passing, Upshaw is the better fit of the two and Ellison should be the one rotating in on every third drive.
Secondly, all Southern fans see that something is wrong with either how Matt Breida is producing, or how he’s being utilized. He’s on pace for a heavy drop in carries from last year (180 this year vs. 203 a season ago), and his yards per carry (4.0) is the lowest it has been since he started playing for the Eagles in 2014. His longest rush this year is a 26-yarder he ripped off against Savannah State. Just based on the eye-test, the team is too preoccupied with trying to establish an inside run game that just is not there on early downs. If the team wants to use Breida to his full potential, it is going to have to get more creative about getting him the ball in space. Use screens, draws, just do anything else besides trying to pound him between the tackles when he is struggling to get past the first line of defenders.
@underdogdynasty @WatchTheStone what are the coaches trying to do on offense? Team seems to lack a distinct identity.— CUSAbbs (@CUSAbbs) September 29, 2016
You bring up a good point and I think I have a comparison that fits: During Chip Kelly’s last season as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, everyone criticized every decision he made, and rightly so. But the fact of the matter was, the personnel wasn’t a fit for his offensive system. He was stubborn and tried to make it work anyway, and it failed miserably. That’s the feeling I get from Tyson Summers and company so far, who are trying to make passers out of Upshaw and Ellison instead of being creative with the playcalling and doing more than two inside runs and a long heave on a 3rd and 7. A square peg does not fit in a round hole.
@underdogdynasty @WatchTheStone Are Southern's three passing touchdowns last week a good sign or has the team lost its identity?— Haisten Willis (@HaistenWillis) September 29, 2016
To tack on to my last answer, I think Southern has gone a bit to the wayside with what it does best, which is running the football. Through the first four games, we have seen the combination of Upshaw and Ellison throw the ball 58 times. Neither one of those guys are efficient enough passers to warrant that kind of volume unless down by a lot. And that’s why I think we saw 3 TD passes against WMU, because the offense was struggling to get anything going, and throwing the ball became the team’s only real course of action.
The most frustrating thing about the entire situation is, as a Georgia Southern fan, and a fan of good football in general, this team is way too talented to look as poor on offense as it has so far.
@underdogdynasty @WatchTheStone After getting handled in the trenches at WMU, could that end up becoming a trend or a fluke? #byeweekmailbag— Will Cheney (@CheneyLWOS) September 29, 2016
First off, WMU is a very good football team who deserves credit for essentially eating Georgia Southern’s lunch all night. But the Sun Belt may boast one or two teams who are on that level at best. Appalachian State is always tough, so hopefully both the offensive and defensive lines figure it out before Oct. 27 rolls around. But the team has time to get it together with trips to take on a struggling Arkansas State team and Georgia Tech the week after. We only have a small sample size so far, and unfortunately a lot of that is skewed positively by the Savannah State game. We should get a feel for this team once it delves deeper into competition.
@underdogdynasty @WatchTheStone What do you see as the next step in the progression of Southern's program and how do they get there?— Jared (@JaredUTSA) September 29, 2016
Good final question. I think the next step in Georgia Southern’s program is following in the footsteps of Arkansas State. If the Eagles want to become a power, the team first needs to stack conference title wins as the Red Wolves have done over the years. Another win over a Power 5 school wouldn’t hurt the Eagles’ national standing either, and the team was so close to achieving that in 2014 when it fell short against NC State and Georgia Tech.
How they get there though is a mystery. My first instinct is to say, “stop doing what they’ve done the last three games”, but that isn’t realistic or helpful. I think if the program keeps pulling in quality recruits and consistently winning games, it will receive more national recognition, and the team can move on from there.
Thanks so much to everyone who submitted questions, I enjoyed doing this mailbag very much, and hope to be able to do it again in the future.