With another season and the team's first-ever bowl victory in the books, the Georgia Southern Eagles will be welcoming both the projected No. 1 recruiting class in the conference and new starters on both sides of the ball.
While the offense retains its core of playmakers, the defense will look very different with the departure of most of the secondary. Here are some players to watch for on both offense and defense next season.
Here is the good news: Guys like Kevin Ellison and Matt Breida will be back next season, and the Eagles don't have a ton of holes to fill when it comes to skill position players. However, Southern is losing a few offensive linemen to graduation. Starters like Darien Foreman and Roscoe Byrd will be missed at each of the guard spots.
Thankfully, former head coach Willie Fritz left some talent behind in order to fill these gaps. Names like Jeremiah Theus and Curtis Rainey immediately come to mind. Theus was redshirted this past season, while Rainey saw 48 snaps on the line.
As far as skill positions go, the wide receiver spots are open for competition. Derek Keaton was primarily used as a kick returner, so help will be immediately needed there. Ryan Longoria started 11 games and played in 13, but has since graduated.
May we see an upperclassmen like B.J. Johnson take hold of a spot? Or will a younger player like Obe Fortune or even an incoming recruit like Jacob Robertson see a significant amount of playing time?
Both new head coach Tyson Summers and co-offensive coordinator David Dean have shown an interest in throwing the ball a bit more, and dynamic receivers will be needed if that is to be the case.
Here is where the bad news comes in: the secondary is largely gone. Matt Dobson, D.J. White and Antonio Glover all need to be replaced.
Georgia Southern's recruiting class last season was filled with defensive backs that have had a season to learn the playbook and get coached up. Players like Joshua Moon, Christian Matthew and Jay Bowdry were highly rated coming into last year, and all three may earn starting jobs. All have incredible size for secondary players.
As far the linebacking corps goes, the only loss will be starter Antwione Williams. The Eagles may see someone like Chris DeLaRosa or Patrick Flowe start in his old spot. The defensive line graduated only one player as well, defensive end Lennie Richardson.
Signing day is still a little under a month away, and as we all know anything can happen, but could we see someone like recent commit Traver Vliem rotate in on the defensive line next season?
While the Eagles lost some key pieces in the secondary and on the offensive line, if Summers and the rest of his staff can plug these holes and find playmakers on both sides of the ball, GS could be looking at another run at the Sun Belt Championship next season.