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Georgia State Panthers 2019 season preview: Elliott turns to experience

Panthers look to improve on 2-win 2018

Georgia State v Memphis Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Experience is helpful, but can also be misleading.

Take the 2019 edition of the Georgia State Panthers as a prime example. They return plenty of starters on both sides of the ball and at key positions.

But do you trust experience when their track record says many of those same players went 2-10 last season?

Ellington is an intriguing weapon

Dual-threat Dan Ellington showed flashes of efficiency last season.

Ellington threw for 2,119 yards, 12 touchdowns and 5 INTs on 59.6 percent passing in 2018, to go along with a team-high 827 yards rushing.

On paper, the offensive line is Georgia State’s greatest source of strength. The Panthers return a talented left side of the O-Line in tackle Hunter Atkinson and Quion Gilmore. If the right side, which may be starting a freshman and sophomore, can pick up the offense quickly, it should give Ellington enough time to make plays.

The most glaring hole in the Panther offense is Penny Hart, who is currently trying to do his best Andrew Hawkins impression with the Indianapolis Colts.

There is no replacing Hart with an individual wideout.

There, I said it.

Without Hart, however, there’s plenty of room for spreading the ball around. Sophomore Cornelius McCoy and senior Devin Gentry will get the lion’s share (or panther’s share?) of the targets early.

A spotlight will also be cast on the Georgia State backfield to see if the combination of Tra Barnett and Seth Paige can find daylight and also give Ellington a much-needed safety valve in the passing game.

Defense returns seven

The Panther defense returns nine of its top 11 tacklers, including seven starters for 2019.

Individual and team-based growth in their defensive roles from 2018 to 2019, however, will be crucial. Many of those players were part of a defensive unit that ranked last in the Sun Belt in conference yards allowed per game, tied for last in forced turnovers in Sun Belt games (six) and second-worst in points allowed per game in conference play (36.9).

To improve, Georgia State must drum up a pass rush. Middle linebacker Ed Curney, who was also the team’s leading tackler (81) and sack artist (3.5) in 2018, will need to continue finding ways to be disruptive.

Curney will need help. Terry Thomas, Dantae Wilson and Javonte Lain must get good push on the opponents to help close down running lanes and allowing Curney and linebackers Trajan Stephens-McQueen and Jordan Strachan to make plays.

The secondary is the most intriguing spot on the Panther defense.

Starting defensive backs Quavian White and Jaylon Jones were freshmen last season. Their development in Defensive Coordinator Nate Fuqua’s system will go a long way towards better field position for the Panther offense.

Special teams

Dual kicker-punter Brandon Wright enters his senior season as the most versatile kicking specialist in the Sun Belt.

Wright converted 7 of 11 field goals and his net punting average of 42.8 yards per punt is no joke. He could easily earn First Team Sun Belt honors at both positions.


Georgia State v Memphis Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Two years ago, Panther fans were celebrating a bowl victory and a steady progression upwards after taking some lumps transitioning from the FCS ranks.

Last year was a harsh fall back to earth. If Coach Shawn Elliott can split two of the first four games (most presumably vs. Furman and at Texas State) these Panthers can start gaining confidence.

Expect growing experiences for the Panthers to turn a two-win season into a 4-5-win campaign and help the program start the upward climb to bowl eligibility once again.