Preview 2017: Georgia State Panthers
Previewing and looking ahead at the Georgia State Panthers season – and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The Georgia State Offense
New head coach Shawn Elliott and offensive coordinator Travis Trickett want to speed things up, but at the same time they want more power out of the ground game. That shouldn’t be a problem on either front.
The running game can’t be any worse after sputtering through a miserable season averaging 88 yards per try – and it won’t be. RB Kyler Neal is a good one, but he needs the ball in his hands more and he needs to get a lot more work behind a line that didn’t provide any pop, but gets four starters back.
Conner Manning is a veteran passer who should crank up big numbers – assuming he holds off the challengers for the gig – with the return of 2015 star WR Penny Hart along with good targets in Glenn Smith and Todd Boyd. Tempo, tempo, tempo – that’ll be the passing game that tries to keep things moving in a hurry.
Biggest Key To The Georgia State Offense
The offensive line has to rock. The skill players are talented enough to crank up the attack, but will they get the time and room to move? Georgia State only averaged 88 rushing yards per game, but it did an okay job in pass protection. Four starters are back from a young group that started three underclassmen, but now the blasting has to come for the line to provide a push. It did a great job in spring practices, but now the consistency has to be there.
What You Need To Know About The Georgia State Defense
The defense wasn’t the problem. It only allowed 381 yards per game, doing a fantastic job against the pass, but it struggled too often against the run in key moments. There’s hope for more production under new defensive coordinator Nate Fuqua, who’s stressing more production behind the line and a lot more toughness overall.
The linebackers are going to be the stars – with almost everyone of note returning – while the defensive front has the experience to be nastier. Now the depth has to form for the front seven. The secondary needs to secure the safeties with Bobby Baker gone, but the corners – Chandon Sullivan and Jerome Smith – should be among the Sun Belt’s best.
Biggest Key To The Georgia State Defense
Get more physical. Every new coaching staff stresses the idea of getting tougher and stronger, but that really was a big deal in spring ball for a defense that gave up 207 rushing yards per game. There was lots of hitting, lots of toughness, and lots of attitude in practices. The pieces are in place up front to do everything the coaches are looking for.
Georgia State Will Be Far Better If …
The all-around punting game needs to be far, far stronger. Scoring more would be nice after averaging under 20 points per game, but that’ll come with the experience and new offensive style. Getting something out of the woeful punt return game is a must, though, after averaging just 3.5 yards per try in 2015 and getting even worse last year averaging 1.43 yards per pop. The punters who combined to average just 39 yards per kick have to be better, too.
Best Georgia State Offensive Player
WR Penny Hart, Soph. – Dominant in his freshman season, Hart blew up in 2015 with a team-leading 1,099 yards and eight scores on 71 catches. He’s a lightning-quick 5-9, 170-pounder who’s always open – when he’s healthy. First he suffered a hamstring injury, and then he was knocked out with a broken foot. He’ll be back and ready to roll as good as new.
2. RB Kyler Neal, Sr.
3. QB Conner Manning, Sr.
4. WR/RB Glenn Smith, Sr.
5. WR Todd Boyd, Sr.
Best Georgia State Defensive Player
LB/DE Michael Shaw, Jr. – The 6-4, 230-pounder did a little bit of everything on the outside for the Panther D over the last two seasons. He was more of a pass rusher and playmaker in the backfield as a freshman, but he broke out last year in a hybrid role with 76 tackles with a team-high three sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Expect him to be used more as a pass rushing defensive end than a true linebacker.
2. LB Trey Payne, Sr.
3. CB Chandon Sullivan, Sr.
4. DE Mackendy Cheridor, Sr.
5. LB Chase Middleton, Jr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Conner Manning, Sr. – The Panthers needed a quarterback who could keep an already good passing game going. Problem solved, getting Manning from the JUCO ranks. The former Utah backup isn’t all that big – he’s just 6-1 and 205 pounds – but he has a live arm and showed he wasn’t afraid to bomb away.
While he didn’t bomb away like Nick Arbuckle did the year before, he threw for close to 2,700 yards and 16 touchdowns with 13 picks. He scared the stuff out to Wisconsin with a brilliant 20-of-29 performance, but he followed it up with four picks in the loss to Appalachian State.
He can be a 300-yard machine in this offense, and if spring ball was any indication, he took to it quickly. While he’s still in a battle for the job, he should be the main man.
The Georgia State Season Will Be A Success If …
The Panthers win five games. And flirt with six wins and a bowl appearance. Tennessee State, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina and Texas State all winnable, getting to four wins might not be too big a problem, but that’s not a given. With so much returning experience, there have to be a few wins of improvement.
Key Game To The Georgia State Season
Oct. 21 vs. Troy – How quickly is everything coming together? It might take a half a season for all the changes to kick in under the new coaching staff. Troy should be one of the stars of the Sun Belt again, but this is in Georgia State Stadium – the Panthers have to own home. With a date vs. South Alabama five days later, this might be a must win.
2016 Georgia State Fun Stats
– 4th Down Conversions: Opponents 18-of-26 (69%) – Georgia State 5-of-14 (36%)
– Time of Possession: Opponents 34:26 – Opponents 25:34
– Punt Returns: Opponents 30 for 373 yards – Georgia State 7 for 10 yards