In the 100 days leading up to the kickoff of the college football season on Saturday, Aug. 25, HERO Sports is ranking the top 100 teams in the FBS. Each day, starting May 17 and ending Aug. 24, a new team is revealed in the HERO Sports Top 100.
No. 95 Georgia Southern
For the second time in three years, Georgia Southern has a new head coach.
Chad Lunsford is tasked with rebuilding a former FCS powerhouse that fared well in their early FBS years but took a nosedive following the departure of Willie Fritz. The Eagles bring back almost everyone and though growing pains are expected with a completely new defensive system and tweaked offensive system, they will win more than two games in 2018.
2017 Record: 2-10 (2-6, Sun Belt)
Georgia Southern was the subject of many, "What the hell happened?" inquiries last season when they lost to New Hampshire at home and were clobbered by UMass and Troy by a combined margin of 57 points on their way to an 0-9 start.
Second-year head coach Tyson Summers was canned after the sixth game and replaced by Chad Lunsford, who righted the ship and went 2-4.
Head Coach: Chad Lunsford (1st Year)
A Georgia native who's been coaching in the state since 2003, Chad Lunsford is the jack-of-all-trades head coach. He's coached offense, defense and special teams and was the recruiting coordinator under his predecessor and former boss Tyson Summers.
After a win over Louisiana on Nov. 25, multiple players tweeted their desire to remove Lunsford's interim tag and name him permanent head coach.
“It feels so good, man,” running back Wesley Fields said when Lunsford was given the job. “I’m excited for him and I know he’s going to do a fantastic job. He’ll do anything for this university. The players respect him, and we’d do anything for him.”
RB L.A. Ramsby, LB Chris DeLaRosa
Georgia Southern's losses were minimal. All seven of their all-conference selections return but they still lost a few key contributors. Ramsby left with 39 touchdowns and nearly 2,400 career rushing yards and DeLaRosa started all 12 games at linebacker and had a career-high 56 tackles.
Returning Offensive Players
QB Shai Werts, RB Wesley Fields, WR Malik Henry, C Curtis Rainey, K Tyler Brass
Another year, another new offensive coordinator.
Georgia Southern was technically an option team under Summers but they were so average — and miserable at times — at it that they hardly looked like a true option team. That will change under Bob DeBesse, a 30-year coaching veteran who spent the last six years as New Mexico offensive coordinator and coached under Willie Fritz at Sam Houston State. And DeBesse's offense will look like the one Georgia Southern ran under Fritz. They averaged 55 rushing attempts and 6.5 yards per carry in 2015.
"The option off the zone and option off power, things we did in ’14 and ’15, leading the country in rushing," Lunsford said in December. "I see it being very similar to that, but there will be some other wrinkles that are a little bit different.”
Quarterback Shai Werts will run the offense but will rarely attempt more than 8-10 passes per game. Wesley Fields (below) will be the primary ball-carrier.
Curtis Rainey is back on an offensive line that was terrible and only had one player start all 12 games. The 6-foot-2, 290-pounder has played both center and guard in his career but has never played more than 90 percent of snaps in a single game.
Kicker Tyler Brass earned All-Sun Belt Second-Team honors for hitting 79 percent of field-goal attempts (15-of-19) and all but one of his PATs.
Returning Defensive Players
DE Logan Hunt, DE Raymond Johnson III, LB Todd Bradley, LB Tomarcio Reese, LB Jay Bowdry, CB Monquavion Brinson, CB Kindle Vildor, S Joshua Moon, S Sean Freeman
Lunsford also hired a new defensive coordinator, Scot Sloan, a longtime App State assistant and an old colleague. Sloan ran a 3-4 system with the Mountaineers that relied on linebacker depth and perimeter speed.
Sloan acknowledged offseason issues at inside linebacker with Bradley, Reese and their backups, saying they went through some "growing pains" but started "playing downhill and with some confidence."
Behind them is a secondary oozing with potential. Safety Joshua Moon is the wild card. The 6-foot, 200-pounder who 45 tackles and five tackles for loss last year, was moved around during the spring and appears to have settled in at free safety. Monquavion Brinson (below) ranked 11th nationally with five interceptions as a sophomore and will pair with Kindle Vildor on the outside.
"They have to get used to playing a little bit more zone as opposed to man-to-man coverage and that's something they got better at as spring progressed," Sloan said of their corners.
Up front, the Eagles have the pieces to make the transition from a four-man front to a three-man front a smooth one but depth is concerning. Raymond Johnson III ranked second on the team in sacks (3.5) as a sophomore and Logan Hunt was an all-conference performer.
RB Matt LaRoche, RB Jared Daniels, DE Josh Johnson, CB Bryce Cross, S Kenderick Duncan Jr.
Georgia Southern's post-spring defensive depth chart was laced with redshirt freshman, including a couple of guys who had Power Five offers in Josh Johnson and Bryce Cross. Johnson is a 6-foot-5, 240-pounder who could fit perfectly in Sloan's system that requires horizontal movement.
Two more redshirt freshmen, running backs Matt LaRoche and Jared Daniels, received a lot of reps in the spring game due to injuries.
Georgia Southern completes the second half of a home-and-home vs. UMass with a Week 2 home game before they visit Clemson for the first time ever. The Eagles struggled vs. elite competition last year, managing 78 total yards in a loss to Auburn.
After a Week 4 bye, the nine-game conference slate kicks off with back-to-back home games.
|Saturday, Sept. 1||vs. South Carolina State|
|Saturday, Sept. 8||vs. UMass|
|Saturday, Sept. 15||at Clemson|
|Saturday, Sept. 29||vs. Arkansas State|
|Saturday, Oct. 6||vs. South Alabama|
|Thursday, Oct. 11||at Texas State|
|Saturday, Oct. 20||at New Mexico State|
|Thursday, Oct. 25||vs. Appalachian State|
|Saturday, Nov. 3||at UL-Monroe|
|Saturday, Nov. 10||vs. Troy|
|Saturday, Nov. 17||at Coastal Carolina|
|Saturday, Nov. 24||at Georgia State|