At this point in the year, we do not know exactly what the Georgia Southern Eagles will run as far as the offense goes. Will new head coach Tyson Summers stick closely to the mantra of "if it ain't broke don't fix it?" And if he does choose to implement more passing, who should start at quarterback?
To answer that question, my fellow GS contributor Haisten Willis and I will break down the different strengths and advantages that Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw bring to the table.
Brian: At this point, I think it has to be Ellison. I'll get to why I think he should remain starter later on, but I'll let Haisten makes his case first.
Haisten: No matter who starts, Summers has already said that both quarterbacks will see time, as they have the last two seasons. That said, Ellison was clearly the top man in 2014 and 2015, and I'm not so sure that's the case going into this season. Upshaw looked fantastic both in the bowl win and the spring game, and he looks to be closing the gap in experience and confidence as well. We could see Upshaw take over the opening drives in 2016.
BS: Neither Ellison nor Upshaw were spectacular by any means last season. Both threw more interceptions than touchdowns, but Ellison did not play in that disastrous game against West Virginia. When I think of Upshaw's passing ability at this point, the only thing I can think about his him quick-snapping to try and catch the defense off-guard and subsequently throwing an interception to a WVU defender. In my head, Ellison is the better passer even though his completion percentage last season was only marginally better than Upshaw's.
HW: Right, I'm still doing all in my power to wash last season's West Virginia game out of my mind forever. Upshaw definitely didn't throw well, but we'll never know if Ellison would have done better since he was out with a suspension.
Statistically it was no contest last year. Ellison had more attempts, completions and yards, a better completion percentage, almost two more yards per completion, and four throwing touchdowns to Upshaw's zero. Upshaw looked better during the spring game last month, but I'm going to weigh in-game action over a practice session any day. Advantage: Ellison.
HW: This is where both shine, as you'd expect from a Georgia Southern quarterback. Ellison is more shifty, but you just can't beat Upshaw when it comes to breakaway speed (and an extra yard per carry in 2015). I think Upshaw's confidence has grown too, and for that reason I've got to give the younger QB an edge in this area. I lost count of how many times I've watched the 80-yard touchdown from the GoDaddy Bowl, and I want to see more of that.
BS: Upshaw's breakaway speed is incredible, I can't dispute that at all. But as far as 'who is the better rusher?' goes, I have to go with Ellison. He shakes off tacklers at a higher rate than Upshaw does, and doesn't shy away from contact. Although Upshaw's top-end speed is fantastic, I feel like he is brought down by too many shoestring tackles.
BS: This is a tough category to get a handle on, since we aren't the ones in the Georgia heat over the summer, so I would have to say it's a wash. I get the feeling that both quarterbacks are great leaders, and that anyone on the roster would follow both guys without a second of hesitation.
HW: Obviously we don't really know since we're not on the team and don't get to hang out in the locker room (although that would be cool). Quarterbacks are supposed to be the leader of the team, and the good news is both Upshaw and Ellison get along spectacularly. They are seniors, roommates and good friends so there should be no drama regardless of who is named starter.
In other words, I don't know who has the edge here.
Who Has The Intangibles?
HW: This is where Ellison had a clear advantage before. He looked more confident running the offense and things just seemed to work better with him taking snaps. But Upshaw looks to have closed the gap over the last six months or so. He's a little more calm and less emotional as a player, and there is more upside overall for Upshaw as a runner and passer. While we'll see plenty of both of these guys in the fall, it may be time for # 13 to get the nod.
BS: This is where I think Ellison holds the ultimate advantage. Consistency is the name of the game here, and Ellison has been the most consistent part of the offense, outside of Matt Brieda. Upshaw has the highest of highs (GoDaddy Bowl) but some lows that are pretty tough to comprehend (WVU game, that pitch against Georgia Tech in 2014). I love Ellison's ability to keep everything even out on the football field, and I haven't seen that same quality from Upshaw on a game to game basis.