This year's Georgia Southern Eagles spring game will be like many, an oddity in the sports world where only one team takes the field and we watch anyway because we're obsessed.
They say golf is a game you play against yourself, but even then there are other guys on the course you're trying to beat. A football game with only one team, now that's different.
Nonetheless, there are plenty of reasons to head to Statesboro Saturday, first and foremost the presence of new head coach Tyson Summers. This is our first chance — ever — to see his work leading this storied football program. And if you're going as an excuse to take in the campus and visit old friends, there's plenty of room for that too.
Start Time: Noon EST, April 16
Location: Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, Georgia
Weather: 64 degrees at kickoff. Party cloudy, 15 mph winds, 59 percent humidity
Anything Else: More info here
The format will be four, 12-minute quarters and everything but the quarterbacks will be live. Speaking of which...
Georgia Southern Outlook
It's always the case with the Eagles, but all eyes will be on the offense.
Summers said from day one he's keeping the option, the "gun option" at that. However, his hire of co-offensive coordinator David Dean from Valdosta State, who ran more of a spread offense in the past, indicates things could be a little different. The other co-OC, former Valdosta High coach Rance Gillespie, lead the GS offense under Chris Hatcher from 2007-09. Those teams passed a lot, and only 2007 was memorable.
More subtly, but still important, the two highest-rated players in the Eagles' excellent recruiting class both play receiver. A strong pass game could be fantastic, of course, even if the offense remains option based. Southern completed 43 percent of its pass attempts last season so there is room for improvement.
The truth is if Summers said "I'm going to run the exact same offense as Willie Fritz with absolutely no changes at all" and magically kept the entire roster unchanged there'd still be worried fans.
Let's not forget there were worries about Fritz when he came along. He had passed more in previous stops and wanted to do more of it in Statesboro. Anyway, all of this to say most fans will get our first look at the offense Saturday.
GS returns talent on both sides of the ball, with only the secondary seeing significant attrition.
We've already gone into overriding question about the offense. Summers says he's sticking with the option so I'm guessing that's exactly what we'll see (not to mention they've already been practicing for a month). All of the skill position stars from last season return. Quarterbacks Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw will continue to split time per Summers' comments earlier this spring.
Running backs Matt Breida, LA Ramsby and Wesley Fields also return and I'm getting pumped for this fall just typing that. The offensive line was basically brand new last season and needs less rebuilding this time around as three of five starters return.
A healthy BJ Johnson returns at wide receiver, as do Myles Campbell and Montay Crockett. Keep an eye on redshirt freshman Obe Fortune as well. Houston County receiver Darion Anderson is one of the highest-ranked recruits ever for Georgia Southern, but we won't get a look at him until the fall.
Aside from watching what's on the field fans can check out the field itself. The literal ground at Paulson Stadium is newly installed artificial turf, the first time the 32-year-old stadium hasn't sported grass.
Due to installation, the entire event was scheduled for Statesboro High School until earlier this week. Instead:
"Prettiest little stadium in America." @TysonSummersGSU pic.twitter.com/B1pR4zQ0zi— Beth Summers (@Bethsummers32) March 30, 2016
The 2015 defense was one of Georgia Southern's best, but loses stars in the secondary like Matt Dobson, Antonio Glover and Darrius White.
In total, three cornerbacks and three safeties are gone from last season. Luckily this has been an area where the Eagles recruited will, with players like Joshua Moon, Christian Matthew and Roderick Murray looking to fill the gap. Rebuilding the secondary will be a major key to success in 2016.
Luckily, Summers is a defensive guy, leading his Colorado State squad to the 20th-ranked passing defense in all of college football last season. The Rams allowed an average of only 186.3 yards per game through the air, compared to the Eagles' 203.9 yards per game.
With the notable exception of Antwione Williams, many of the other defensive starters return. Former four-star recruit and Florida State transfer Ukeme Eligwe also makes his debut at linebacker. Lorenzo "Zo" Costantini will coach his first spring game as a defensive coordinator following two stints at UCF
It goes without saying, of course, not to read too much into what you see at a spring game. This is a sneak peak at best of what you'll see in September.
If you're heading down, don't miss the punt, pass and kick contest and the tailgate cookoff. Current students get free pizza and a Q&A with Summers starting at 11:15 in section 106. The team will get its GoDaddy Bowl championship rings after the game, and after that there are free posters and an autograph session. They're not messing around in the entertainment department.
I finally got to play the university golf course after the State game and can't recommend that highly enough once the festivities end (especially if you ever played the old Smithfield course. RIP).
It's an ironic joy of the spring game that you can enjoy the weekend without butterflies in the stomach over the outcome. Plus you won't see another snap until September, so why not?