Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE
Bill Connelly's 125-team 2013 college football preview series begins with this year's FBS newbie: Georgia State, which certainly has location going for it. Here are 10 things to know about the Panthers.
Here are 10 things you need to know about Georgia State heading into the 2013 season.
1. They are the Panthers.
We'll start with something easy. GSU is the 125th team in the FBS ranks, but they are one of only two Panthers (three if you count FIU's Golden Panthers). Pitt now has company.
2. This is just about perfect, isn't it?
Take a look at this lovely map from the folks at Husker Math:
The state of Georgia produced more FBS-level players than all but four states. It produced more than Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas combined. But while Texas, California, Florida and Ohio all have a multitude of FBS programs large and small, Georgia has just two. Well, Georgia had just two. Now there are three.
Really, if you were building a FBS program from scratch, wouldn't Atlanta be just about the best possible location? Atlanta is for all intents and purposes the capital of college football, and GSU won't have to go far to locate talent. Now ... make no mistake: Georgia State is going to be absolutely awful in 2013. Terrible. But the Panthers' decision to move to the FBS ranks after just three years in existence was not about the current product. It was about what the product might become. In that regard, this move makes a lot of sense even though GSU went a ghastly 1-10 at the FCS level last year.
3. Trent Miles has the resume.
Indiana State University is known mostly for Larry Bird. It has not been known for anything related to good football. When Trent Miles took over at ISU in 2008, the Sycamores had not experienced a winning season since 1996 (6-5) and had not reached the FCS (then 1-AA) playoffs since 1984. In three years under Lou West (2005-07), ISU went 1-32. Miles returned to his alma mater and not only restored some semblance of competent football, he actually brought respectability to Terre Haute. Miles went 1-22 in his first two seasons back at ISU (and again, he can probably expect something similar at GSU), but from 2010-12, the Sycamores went 19-14. On October 13, 2012, Indiana State went to Fargo and knocked off No. 1 North Dakota State, 17-14.
If you can go 7-4 at Indiana State, you can eventually win seven games in the Sun Belt.
Miles' coaching staff is interesting, too. From Terre Haute, he brought with him Jesse Minter, 29-year-old son of former Cincinnati coach Rick Minter and engineer of an Indiana State defense that allowed just 14 points and 296 yards per game in 2012. He also brought in former Boston College head coach Jeff Jagodzinski as his offensive coordinator. His staff is a mix of experience and young talent. (Remember Thomas Brown, the former Georgia running back who shared the backfield with Knowshon Moreno in 2007? He's the running backs coach.) Miles has been impressive in his early moves with this program, and while that won't pay off immediately, it is still exactly what you want to see.
2012 schedule and results
|9/29||at William & Mary||3-35||L|
|10/13||at Rhode Island||41-7||W|
|10/27||at James Madison||21-28||L|
|Category||Offense||FCS Rk||Defense||FCS Rk|
|Points Per Game||17.4||108||38.5||112|
4. The 2012 season could not have gone any worse.
Georgia State hired former Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky coach Bill Curry as its first-ever head coach for the 2010 season. When GSU announced the move to FBS, one had to figure they had hired Curry to be the man to bring the program up to the big leagues. But after encouraging results (6-5) against a patchwork schedule in 1010, the program's first year, Curry struggled to sustain momentum. The Panthers went 3-8 in 2011, Curry announced he would be retiring following the 2012 season, and last fall, everything fell apart.
Competing in a tough CAA, with two FBS opponents to boot, an injury-plagued GSU squad just really couldn't do anything well. The Panthers scored more than 21 points in a game just twice and allowed fewer than 33 twice. It was a debacle from start to finish. UTSA, another program that went straight from creating a program to moving to the FBS ranks, managed to pull off an awkward transition with relative success. GSU, meanwhile, does not appear quite as well-suited for doing the same.
Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Ben McLane||6'1, 210||So.||NR||139||274||1,592||50.7%||10||11||5.8|
|Ronnie Bell||5'11, 180||So.||** (5.4)||34||67||522||50.7%||3||10||7.8|
|Kelton Hill (WR)||6'0, 183||Sr.||** (4.9)||7||14||76||50.0%||0||1||5.4|
|Clay Chastain||6'3, 210||Jr.||** (5.2)|
5. There is no Matt Ryan on the roster.
Jagodzinski is one of the more experienced offensive coordinators in the FBS ranks. He has coached for 11 teams in his nearly three decades as a football coach, and he is probably most well-known for his role as the engineer of Boston College's 11-3 campaign in 2007. Matt Ryan thrived under Jags' system, but there is only one Matt Ryan in Atlanta this year.
Jagodzinski and the offensive staff appear to have their choice of three candidates at quarterback, and each were found lacking in 2012. Senior Kelton Hill began the year as GSU's starter, struggled, was replaced, moved to defensive back, then moved to receiver. He is reasonably athletic, as is Ronnie Bell, but athleticism did not translate to production. Hill will apparently get another shot at the starting quarterback role in 2013, but he will have to fend off both Ben McLane and Bell. Bell showed upside as a freshman, averaging 15 yards per completion, but managed to complete 10 of his 67 passes to the other team. McLane, meanwhile, was steadier (11 picks in 274 passes) but lacking in any sort of vertical threat. The wildcard here is probably junior college transfer Clay Chastain, who does not come to Atlanta with extreme blue-chip credentials but is certainly built like a pro-style quarterback and is in school for the spring semester. Big freshman Oshay Carter (6'3, 235) could be an impressive get should he qualify, but he has some work to do in that regard.
|Travis Evans||RB||5'11, 190||Sr.||**||75||323||4.3||2|
|Ronnie Bell||QB||5'11, 180||So.||** (5.4)||32||53||1.7||0|
|Parris Lee||RB||5'9, 180||Sr.||*** (5.6)||12||32||2.7||0|
|Kelton Hill||WR||6'0, 183||Sr.||** (4.9)||8||19||2.4||0|
|Albert Wilson||WR||5'9, 195||Sr.||NR||8||18||2.3||0|
|Albert Wilson||WR||5'9, 195||Sr.||NR||48||947||19.7||7|
|Danny Williams||WR||6'4, 200||Sr.||**||20||227||11.4||1|
|Travis Evans||RB||5'11, 190||Sr.||**||15||100||6.7||1|
|Kelton Hill||RB||5'11, 190||Sr.||** (4.9)||11||96||8.7||0|
|Lynquez Blair||WR||5'9, 175||Jr.||NR||10||101||10.1||0|
|Parris Lee||RB||5'9, 180||Sr.||*** (5.6)||9||41||4.6||1|
|Nathaniel Minor||WR||6'2, 180||Jr.||NR||7||59||8.4||0|
|Alex Smith||TE||6'5, 250||Jr.||**** (5.8)||5||75||15.0||0|
|Drew Pearson||TE||6'5, 235||Jr.||NR||5||39||7.8||0|
6. Albert Wilson is the most FBS-ready player on the roster.
Despite quarterback deficiencies, and despite the fact that the only other effective skill position player (running back Donald Russell) got hurt midway through the season, Wilson thrived in 2012. He was GSU's only real big-play threat, but he he was scary -- three catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns versus New Hampshire, three for 71 versus Rhode Island, six for 104 versus Villanova, six for 149 versus Old Dominion (with a kick return touchdown) and three for 75 versus Maine.
He needs far more help than he got in 2012, and he probably won't get it, but he is a name to watch. That he was so dangerous for a team with no other weapons makes you wonder what he could do with a few more complementary pieces.
|2012 Two-Deep||Pos.||Ht, Wt||2013
|Grant King||RT||6'5, 295||Sr.||** (4.9)||33 career starts|
|Ulrick John||LT||6'8, 290||Sr.||NR||14 career starts|
|Harrison Clottey||RG||6'5, 310||Sr.||** (4.9)||13 career starts|
|Tim Wynn||LG||6'2, 280||Jr.||*** (5.5)||11 career starts|
|Michael Davis||C||6'3, 295||Sr.||NR||11 career starts|
|Cade Yates||LG||6'1, 280||Sr.||NR||1 career start|
|Ronald Martin||C||6'1, 290||Jr.||NR||1 career start|
|Gabriel Hampton||LT||1 career start|
|Ramell Davis||RT||6'7, 295||Sr.||** (4.9)|
|Brandon Pertile||OL||6'5, 295||Fr.||** (5.4)|
7. The GSU offensive line is man-sized.
Bill Curry may not have ushered in an immediate golden era for Georgia State, but he brought in plenty of size up front. Heading into 2013, the Georgia State offensive line is both big (average size among the likely starters: 6'5, 294) and wonderfully experienced, with 84 career starts. Right tackle Grant King has started every Georgia State game ever -- a pretty neat tidbit, actually -- and guard Tim Wynn was actually a three-star recruit according to Rivals.com. The line helped GSU's top three running backs average 5.3 yards per carry and should be Sun Belt-ready from the start.
Now GSU just needs a quarterback.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Terrance Woodard||NG||6'4, 320||Sr.||NR||10||46.5||7.0%||2.5||1.0||0||2||0||1|
|Theo Agnew||DE||6'4, 260||Sr.||NR||11||44.5||6.7%||8.0||2.0||0||3||0||0|
|John Kelly||DE||6'5, 240||Jr.||NR||11||25.0||3.8%||4.5||2.0||0||0||0||0|
|Marcus Stetzer||DT||6'0, 255||Jr.||NR||10||15.0||2.3%||4.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|C.J. Stephens||DE||6'4, 255||Jr.||NR||7||12.5||1.9%||1.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Joe Lockley||DT||6'1, 290||So.||NR||6||8.0||1.2%||0.0||0.0||1||1||0||0|
|Melvin King||DE||6'3, 220||So.||NR||9||7.5||1.1%||1.5||1.5||0||0||0||0|
|Chris Russo||NG||6'0, 257||So.||NR||7||2.5||0.4%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|David Huey||DT||6'2, 272||So.||NR||2||0.5||0.1%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Nermin Delic||DT||6'4, 260||Jr.||*** (5.5)|
|Will Cunningham||DE||6'0, 230||Fr.||** (5.3)|
8. Injuries obliterated the GSU defensive line in 2012.
The above table tells you basically what you need to know. Only two of the nine returnees above played in all 11 of GSU's games. Starting tackle David Huey was lost after two games. C.J. Stephens, Melvin King, and Joe Lockley all missed significant time with injury. McClain Head, an end expected to contribute as a redshirt freshman, sat out the season with a concussion and is now no longer with the team. It got so bad that tight end Drew Pearson took snaps at end versus James Madison.
When your defensive line has no depth or continuity, you aren't going to field a good defense. While we can debate the level of talent here, one long-term truism shines: Injuries devastate you in the present tense but can help tremendously in the future tense.
In 2013, defensive coordinator Jesse Minter inherits a line three-deep with experience, one that adds Kentucky transfer Nermin Delic to the mix. And as a whole, the defense should be deeper than it was a year ago. Three-star freshman linebacker Kight Dallas, at one point a South Carolina commit, adds athleticism to the linebacking corps as well. The secondary is terribly thin, but Minter should find a few interesting ways to attack with this front seven.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Joseph Peterson||ILB||6'0, 210||So.||NR||11||52.5||7.9%||3.0||0.0||0||0||2||0|
|Robert Ferguson||ILB||6'1, 230||Sr.||** (4.9)||11||35.0||5.3%||2.5||0.0||1||1||0||0|
|Kail Singleton||OLB||6'2, 203||Sr.||NR||9||35.0||5.3%||0.5||0.0||1||1||0||1|
|Jarrell Robinson||ILB||6'2, 215||Jr.||** (5.4)||11||34.0||5.1%||4.0||1.0||1||3||0||0|
|Allen McKay||ILB||6'2, 213||Sr.||** (4.9)||11||20.0||3.0%||3.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Bryan Williams||OLB||6'3, 200||So.||** (5.3)||8||4.5||0.7%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Kight Dallas||LB||6'2, 220||Fr.||*** (5.5)|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Brent McClendon||CB||5'9, 175||Sr.||NR||11||40.5||6.1%||1.0||0.0||1||4||0||0|
|Demarius Matthews||CB||5'10, 165||Sr.||*** (5.5)||9||19.0||2.9%||0.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Jamal Ransby||CB||5'8, 170||Sr.||NR||8||16.0||2.4%||0.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Arington Jordan||S||5'11, 193||Sr.||NR||11||6.5||1.0%||0.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Rashad Stewart||S||5'10, 190||Sr.||NR|
|LaDarion Young||S||6'0, 180||RSFr.||** (5.4)|
|Matt Hubbard||6'4, 230||Jr.||59||43.1||4||10||12||37.3%|
|Wil Lutz||6'0, 190||So.||39||60.5||7||17.9%|
|Wil Lutz||6'0, 190||So.||18-18||3-3||100.0%||1-4||25.0%|
|Albert Wilson||KR||5'9, 195||Sr.||29||25.9||1|
|Parris Lee||KR||5'9, 180||Sr.||13||16.1||0|
|Kelton Hill||KR||6'0, 183||Sr.||7||18.6||0|
|Albert Wilson||PR||5'9, 195||Sr.||10||9.4||0|
9. Special teams is the least of GSU's problems.
With Wilson returning kickoffs and punts (well, mostly kickoffs, since GSU rarely forced a punt), Matt Hubbard averaging 43 yards per punt and Wil Lutz making every kick inside of 40 yards, Georgia State had a perfectly competent special teams unit in 2012, and the key pieces return.
2013 schedule, summary and projection factors
|9/14||at West Virginia||40|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||125|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||9 / 8|
10. Georgia State is going to be pretty awful in 2013.
Of course. But it will be intriguing to watch this team grow in the coming years. Trent Miles has experience applicable to this exact (barren) situation, he has brought in a surprisingly impressive staff, he has a wonderful recruiting base in his backyard, and he now shares a conference with, among other schools, two other recent FBS additions, South Alabama and Texas State.
By 2015, I would expect GSU to be interesting and competitive. Welcome to the party, Panthers.