The top 10 Georgia Southern football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. RB Matt Breida, Sr.
Everyone gets to have fun in the Georgia Southern offense, but Brieda was special working inside and mostly out, doing a great job of getting his 5-11, 190-pound body into the clear for big runs and huge yards. The veteran averaged close to eight yards per carry with 1,608 yards and 17 scores, and while he’s not a receiver, it doesn’t matter – he’s too dangerous as a runner. He came up with over 100 yards in five straight games and topped out with 205 yards and two scores against Texas State, but he was held in check at times late once everyone started keying on him.
He proved he could hold up – rushing for 1,485 yards and 17 scores as a sophomore – but mostly he takes off on the outside and doesn’t take too much of a hit. A phenomenal athlete, he might be the quickest back in the Sun Belt.
2. QB Kevin Ellison, Sr.
While he missed a little time and he split the action with Favian Upshaw, this still turned into his offense again at times running for 712 yards and eight scores. The 6-0, 195-pounder will never be a passer – he only completed 45% of his throws for 597 yards with four scores and five picks – he knows how to run the attack. It wasn’t the 1,082-yard, 12 touchdown season of 2014, and he threw better two years ago hitting 55% of his passes, but it didn’t have to be with all the other weapons and options. Extremely quick and with the ability to cut on a dime, he’s a devastating option playmaker who can still hit 100 yards here and there – he did it twice last season.
3. DE Bernard Dawson, Sr.
The team’s leading pass rusher, Dawson came up with just four sacks, but he still earned Second Team All-Sun Belt honors as a guy who generated consistent pressure along with 28 tackles. While he’s not huge at 6-2 and 248 pounds he has the quickness and twitch off the ball to be a bigger stat-sheet filler. He might be built like a linebacker, but he can hold up like an end.
4. QB Favian Upshaw, Sr.
It was his offense to run in the first part of the season, and he did just fine while eventually working in a rotation with Kevin Ellison. The slippery-smooth 6-1, 170-pounder finished the season with 583 rushing yards and six scores, while completing under 40% of his passes for 227 yards with no touchdowns and five picks. Originally a FIU Golden Panther, he might be the team’s fastest player to go along with track star leaping ability – he’s too good not to get the ball in his hands in a variety of ways. He’s not a passer – even though he completed 70% of his throws in 2014 – but he ran for 103 yards in the blowout win over Western Michigan and finished up with 199 yards and four scores on just 12 carries in the bowl win over Bowling Green.
5. DT Jay Ellison, Sr.
The tough veteran on the nose. The 6-1, 305-pounder might not be all that huge, but he makes up with it with next-level strength and power in the interior. If he’s not the strongest player on the team, he’s close. He came up with 33 tackles with 2.5 sacks, and he even came up with an interception against Idaho, but the stats don’t really matter. His job is to hold up as the anchor, and he can do that while also getting into the backfield from time to time.
6. LB Ironhead Gallon, Sr.
The team’s second leading tackler, Gallon came up with 81 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss on the way to All-Sun Belt honors. A terrific special teamer – he blocked two kicks – to go along with his defensive duties, he gets all over the field making plays. He’s a bit undersized at 5-10 and 210 pounds, but he can move, making 11 tackles against ULM and ten against Georgia. While he can be erased by a big blocker, he’s outstanding in space.
7. RB L.A. Ramsby, Jr.
Everyone in the backfield gets to have fun running the ball. The 5-11, 210-pound junior brings more pop than the other top rushing options, but he can get into the clear, too, and can even catch a little bit. He finished second on the team with 816 yards and 13 scores, averaging just five yards per carry, but doing the dirty work. While he didn’t hit the 100-yard mark, he was good for around 10-to-15 carries a game for 60+ yards, scoring at least on touchdown in 11 of the last 12 games.
8. RB Wesley Fields, Soph.
Here’s the future of the Georgia Southern ground game. He showed off what he could do with 158 yards and a score against Texas State, and ran for 75 yards and a score in the bowl win over Bowling Green. 6-0 and 195 pounds, he’s a decent-sized, fast back who fits the style of the offense with 682 yards and seven scores on the season averaging 6.75 yards per try. He might not get a ton of work considering the crowded backfield, he can handle the load if needed.
9. OT Jeremiah Culbreth, Soph.
The terrific line that gets three key starters back welcomes back its main man at left tackle. The 6-4, 302-pound underclassmen took over the job as a true freshman and turned into a Freshman All-American growing into a steady all-around blocker. Very physical and quick enough to get on the move, and he has the skill and talent to grow into the star to work around for the next three years.
10. LB Chris DeLaRosa, Jr.
At 6-1 and 230 pounds he has good size and he showed he could hold up as a strong run stopper. He’s a big presence on the inside who finished fifth on the team in tackles with 43 stops with a sack and four tackles for loss – and he’s just getting started. Steady more than sensational, he came up with a season-high nine stops against Idaho, but everything will start to be funneled his way now.