Hustle Belt: Last year, the Eagles dominated the line of scrimmage, running for 413 yards while holding the Broncos to just 25. Should we expect anything like this again this year, or was that an insane one-off performance?
Walt Austin: That wasn't just a one-off performance. It was the way the Eagles played for much of the last few years. Unfortunately, a lot of those players are gone, there's a new scheme, and this line just hasn't had the success getting second level blocks. Sure, Georgia Southern is still gaining a ton on the ground, but it's more grinding than it is through the big plays like it was the last few seasons. I honestly don't know what to expect in this one. Y'all will be the first strong FBS defensive line that the Eagles have played.
HB: Matt Brieda was insane last year, and this year, he's just the 3rd leading rusher for the Eagles. Introduce us to the rest of the group.
WA: I wish I could tell you Breida is 3rd because the other two are just amazing. While they are good, the reason Breida isn't leading the team is because he hasn't busted any big runs this season. That goes back to my answer to question #1. The others ahead of him are sophomore running back Wesley Fields and senior QB Favian Upshaw. Fields is a special back. He's got speed like Breida, moves like the QBs, but can also run with power. He may be the most complete back on the team, since he has good hands, too. Upshaw is a speed demon. Even when he runs option plays, he takes the pitch away himself because he outruns the pitch man. You'll see him split time with fellow QB Kevin Ellison, though. There's also LA Ramsby, who isn't showing up as high in the stats because he missed the first game of the year. Ramsby is the power back. If you need a yard or two, he's almost always going to get it.
HB: With the game moving to a Kalamazoo night versus a warm, muggy Georgia afternoon, how can we expect the feel of this game to differ from last year's?
WA: I think it'll be a lot of fun. It'll be a relief for Georgia Southern players, who will be glad to get out of the humidity. The Eagles have played two home games and a road game in Mobile, AL, so I imagine they'll be a bit invigorated by the Michigan weather. I suspect y'all's fans will be bringing the noise for this one, too, which should make it a lot of fun.
HB: Corey Davis was shut down last year. Part of that was due to injury, but part of the credit has to go to the Georgia Southern secondary. Can they do it again, or does Davis run wild?
WA: Georgia Southern lost most of their secondary from last season and are playing with a whole new cast of characters. They've done well so far, but they haven't faced a true test. They're a talented bunch - on paper - but I just don't know how they're going to do against quality competition. I have a feeling Davis will have a much better night in this one than he did last year if Georgia Southern's defensive line (the heart, soul, and strength of this year's D) can't force some errant throws.
HB: Obviously, the Eagles haven't missed a beat in switching coaches in the off-season. Still, how does this team look different from last year's in terms of schemes?
WA: I can't really say we haven't missed a beat. There are issues with blocking on the line and penalties that we didn't have last season. Georgia Southern should have demolished Louisiana Monroe at home last weekend, but they didn't. It came down to the last plays of the game. Having 14 penalties for 130 yards will do that to you. So will a lack of big plays. The misdirection and option plays have been almost non-existent from this year's team. I don't really know how to describe it, to be honest. The co-coordinators on offense both came from more balanced/pass-heavy back grounds, and they're not really used to running an option format. There were flashes of some new wrinkles last week like a hurry-up offense, but I don't know if that's a plan to move to more often or a one-off thing. The biggest thing I will say this team does more of this year is throw the ball. Until last week, they were throwing the ball very well.
HB: Prediction time! Who wins, by how much, and why?
WA: I want to say this will go just like last year. I don't believe that, though. I think Georgia Southern has been lucky to face the three opponents that they have to start the season. Maybe those wins will have them feeling confident and able to do well. I think Western Michigan at home, coming off some B1G victories, and with revenge on their minds may have a chance to really expose the problems Georgia Southern has had so far this season. If Georgia Southern can establish a ground game and eat the clock up on offense while getting a lot of pressure on the QB for WMU to take pressure off our young DBs, then I think the Eagles can win in a close one. If they can't do that, though, then the Broncos may flip the script from last year and win going away.
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