In February 2016, incoming Georgia Southern Eagles coach Tyson Summers did an excellent job of retaining recruits who might have wavered due to former coach Willie Fritz's departure to Tulane.
This year, the team's signing class could be the exact opposite of last season’s.
I will add the caveat that with a new offensive coordinator and scheme, recruiting rankings cannot be completely ignored, but they become less important if the team reverts to a flexbone offense.
If Summers and OC Bryan Cook want a 60-40 split between the spread option and the flexbone or even a half-and-half split between the two styles of offense, this class is not impressive, at least on paper.
And I know what Summers has said about wanting to be a “gun-option” team, but we saw how last season went.
Just for comparison, in 2016 the Eagles landed their first-ever four-star recruit and ESPN 300 player in wide receiver Darion Anderson. Anderson was redshirted and could make an impact in 2017 if given opportunities. Accompanying him were fourteen (14) three-star recruits.
This year, Georgia Southern has one (1) three-star prospect committed* in cornerback Jaden Garrett. While the team’s pass defense was porous as could be last season and could use help, there is no reason this signing class should be as thin on paper as it is.
Cook must have been straightforward with recruits about offensive changes, as previously committed pro-style quarterback Steven Anderson flipped to Southern Mississippi on Jan. 12.
The Eagles currently rank 8th in the Sun Belt in the recruiting rankings, with only South Alabama and future castoffs New Mexico State and Idaho trailing.
And while Southern has picked up several commits over the past few days, only two-star safety D'Najee Whosendove is ranked as a player.
But the players aren’t the biggest concern for the team moving forward. The biggest concern is the scheme and how both existing and new players fit into it.
My Three Biggest Questions:
- GS has no quarterbacks committed in the 2017 class, which means in the spring and fall, the team will have its pick of LaBaron Anthony, Seth Shuman, Shai Werts or Ellis Richardson as a signal-caller. Only Shuman saw playing time this past season out of that group, primarily in a pocket-passer role. Who is going to start out of that group with limited game experience?
- Is this team deep enough at running back to support the switch to the option? This team has eight backs on the roster for next season with one committed to the Eagles (Grant Walker) in this class. Besides L.A. Ramsby and Wesley Fields, do any of the nine runners fit the offense?
- How does this affect the wide receivers who have committed over the past few seasons? Anderson was one of four receivers who signed with the Eagles last year alone. How do they feel about the potential change in offense? I’m sure those pass-catchers that signed were being told there would be an uptick in pass attempts, but the flex realistically is made to throw the ball 7-12 times per game, and that’s if things are going poorly. Will they want to stick around beyond this season if asked to primarily be blockers, or will they be looking for other schools to transfer to?
Unless a big, game-changing recruit comes along before Feb. 1, the Eagles will be stuck in the cellar of Sun Belt recruiting classes.
Author’s Note: As of this writing, Garrett was the only three-star committed and the team was in eighth place in Sun Belt rankings. Over the weekend, Southern picked up new recruits, including three-star defensive end Kenton Tucker. The Eagles now rank 6th in the conference as of Monday morning.