The top 10 Georgia State football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. WR Penny Hart, Soph.
The smallish 5-9, 170-pound freshman destroyed secondaries catching a team-high 71 passes for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 15.48 yards per try. Dominant, he caught 11 passes for 150 yards and two scores against New Mexico State, and followed it up with nine catches for 128 yards against Oregon. He hit the 100-yard mark five times on the season, scoring a touchdown in each of the last four games on the way to Freshman All-America honors. Very quick and slippery, he’s deadly in the open field with the ball in his hands.
2. WR Robert Davis, Sr.
The big body to go along with the small and quick Penny Hart, the 6-3, 198-pound Davis is also a deep threat to go along with his physical style. While he didn’t have as many 100-yard games as Hart, he came up with a five-catch, 177-yard, one score day against Texas State, and caught nine passes for 125 yards and a touchdown against Ball State. Not just great on the field, he’s an all-star in the classroom, too.
3. TE Keith Rucker, Sr.
The All-Sun Belt tight end out of Cincinnati was deadly in the red zone and turned into one of the team’s most reliable chain-movers making 58 catches for 786 yards and six scores despite missing three games. Unable to show off what he could do in high school – his team didn’t really throw the ball – he just started blossoming as a receiver last season. Steady, he came up big against Troy with ten catches for 154 yards for his only 100-yard game of the season, but he had a hard time staying healthy.
4. LB Kaleb Ringer, Sr.
The JUCO transfer stepped in right away and made a big impact coming up with 73 tackles highlighted by an 11-stop day against San Jose State. At 6-0 and 235 pounds, he’s built to handle himself against the run on the inside, and he’s got the talent to blow up into a star. He started out his career at Michigan where he was a solid recruit, in his final year as a collegian, it’ll be a shock if he’s not one of the team’s leading tacklers.
5. LB Alonzo McGee, Sr.
Undersized, but incredibly effective, he’s only 6-1 and 220 pounds, but he’s like a guided missile attacking the ball from the outside. The UAB transfer and former JUCO player made 70 tackles once he took over the full-time gig, getting into the backfield without a problem with 12.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Extremely steady against the run, he showed the quickness and burst to get off the ball and be disruptive.
6. DE Shawanye Lawrence, Sr.
The starting defensive end earned All-Sun Belt recognition after a solid season – now he has to start getting to the quarterback more. At 6-4 and 270 pounds he has the size to hold up, and he has the experience going into his fourth year on the outside. Good early on, he has literally grown over the last few seasons coming up with 41 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss. While he’s not fast off the ball, he has the strength and the bulk to be the anchor of the line from his spot on the edge.
7. CB Chandon Sullivan, Jr.
Fast enough to be a dangerous kickoff returner – averaging 23.5 yards per try on his four attempts – and with two interceptions with one going for a score, Sullivan turned in a strong year on the outside. Good in the open field, he 42 of his 50 tackles as solo stops, he also has the speed to be a pass rusher from time to time making two sacks with 4.5 tackles for loss. At 5-11 and 185 pounds he has good enough size to hold up, the smarts to handle whatever comes his way – he’s an all-star student – and he can move. He could even move to free safety if absolutely necessary.
8. FS Bobby Baker, Sr.
Very big and very solid, the 6-2, 200-pound former UAB Blazer and JUCO transfer found his way from Sherman Oaks, California to Georgia. The third-leading tackler had a whale of an debut for the Panthers making two picks and recovering a fumble against Charlotte. While he came up with just one other interceptions on the season, he came up with 76 tackles with ten stops against Louisiana-Lafayette and ten more in the bowl loss to San Jose State.
9. QB Conner Manning, Jr.
Who’s going to eventually take over the starting quarterback game from Nick Arbuckle? Manning was a top high school passer in California, but the 6-1, 205-pounder didn’t receive too many big offers. He started out at Utah before going the JUCO route to Georgia State. A sharp, accurate passer, he should fit the style the Panthers need – if he wins the job.
10. OT Michael Ivory, Sr.
Can the Panther O line be better in pass protection? It was rough at times, but four starters are back working around Ivory at left tackle. At 6-5 and 340 pounds, he’s a very big, very powerful blocker, but he’s not the nimblest of pass protectors. The former JUCO transfer from Louisville started out his career at Coffeyville CC in Kansas, and now he’s the veteran leader of the experience line.