Our series continues as we recap each team in the Sun Belt and next up is the program that ran the table in the conference back in 2014. Since then it’s been a steady decline for the Eagles and it finally hit rock bottom this fall as they lost their first nine games of the season. Interim head coach Chad Lunsford took over in November and would get Georgia Southern back to playing respectable football to close the year.
After a very disappointing 5-7 season, second-year head coach Tyson Summers entered fall camp on a very hot seat. The fans were ready for a change after just one season and with a quick change at offensive coordinator to bring back the beloved option, it was clear that wins would need to come quickly for the 37-year-old head coach.
In the preseason, the coaches called for Georgia Southern to finish seventh in the Sun Belt while our UDD team had the Eagles in a three-way tie for sixth place. Therefore, it was expected to be an ugly season in Statesboro where championships are expected. I’m not sure anyone envisioned it getting as ugly as it did.
Summers and his squad couldn’t have gotten off to a much worse start as they only produced 78 total yards in the opening weekend loss to Auburn and would follow that up with a loss to FCS New Hampshire by double-digits (a game that had to be played in Birmingham due to Hurricane Irma). After that, it was easy to tell that Summers was done in Statesboro and the Georgia Southern team played like it.
For the year, the offense did some good things, especially on the ground. Three different players recorded over 500 yards rushing as Wesley Fields emerged as a true feature back for this offense. When not taking negative plays or turning the ball over, redshirt freshman quarterback Shai Werts was this offense’s best player as he consistently provided positive running combined with a decent passing ability.
Turnovers, however, were a huge issue for this team as the Eagles coughed the ball up 20 times. You add the ball security issues with the high number of negative plays allowed (opponents averaged 7.7 tackles for loss against this offense) and you’ll have an offense that is very inefficient.
The offense got most of the attention but this defense definitely had its issues as it allowed 34 points per game. In the first two months of the season, each FBS opponent scored at least 35 points and this was giving Georgia Southern no chance to compete. The Eagles gave up 6.6 yards per play and that was just above dead last in the Sun Belt.
This defense did have some bright spots and each will be returning to campus in 2018. Monquavion Brinson emerged as one of the best corners in the Sun Belt as he recorded five interceptions and 12 pass breakups. Logan Hunt was very disruptive from his defensive end spot as he recorded 11 tackles for loss and five sacks as a junior.
The special teams were very strong for Georgia Southern and Chad Lunsford’s group was consistent all season long. Tyler Bass was an excellent place kicker and may have been the best kickoff specialist in the Sun Belt. The Eagles were productive in the return game and return all these pieces for next season.
There wasn’t much good to come from the 2017 football season for this program, but Monquavion Brinson is a building block. The Atlanta native was the one of the few impact performers on the team last season and he will be a huge piece for new defensive coordinator Scot Sloan in 2018.
They had their moments, but for the most part the ground game was a disappointment this year. And for an option offense that is never a good sign. The Georgia Southern offense was held to under four yards per carry in eight games this fall and that inconsistency played a big part in the 2-10 record. The Eagles struggled on the line, behind center, and at running back. These issues must be fixed and Georgia Southern needs to find some consistency next season under a new offensive coordinator.
The Tyson Summers era is on the back burner and the job is officially belongs to Chad Lunsford. The Elberton, Georgia native has been on the staff in Statesboro since 2013 and landed the full-time gig after going 2-4 as the interim head coach this fall.
After some staff changes, including bring over New Mexico offensive coordinator Bob DeBeese, the gun option will be back and running in Statesboro. The Eagles now have one of their own running the program and defensive coordinator Scot Sloan has a ton of Sun Belt experience. There will be quite a bit of optimism entering 2018, but this program will have a ton to prove next fall. However, the fans and the program are in a much better place than at any point in the Summers era.