STATESBORO, Ga. — You have no reason to doubt Georgia Southern’s Darius Eubanks when he says he doesn’t know his statistics this season.
He’s a yes-sir, no-sir guy, who didn’t hesitate giving the nod to a move from outside linebacker to free safety.
His stats are slightly down, but his impact way up for an Eagle defense that is second in the FCS in total defense, fourth in scoring defense and fourth in pass defense.
“Yes sir, it’s a new position, but I’m glad to be back there,” said Eubanks, a senior who is hoping to help Georgia Southern extend its winning streak to six Saturday night against Chattanooga.
Georgia Southern’s defense finished on a downward spiral last season, mainly because of a porous secondary. The Eagles surrendered 37.8 points a game during the final four games after giving up an average of 18.1 points during the first 10 games.
So the coaching staff rearranged some of its players to maximize their impact.
“Our philosophy is to get the best 11 players on the field and certainly Darius falls in that category,” Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken said. “Then it’s, where do we position these 11 guys to best benefit us? You just try to piece it together.”
Eubanks, a preseason first-team, all-conference linebacker in a vote by league coaches this summer, went to free safety, a position he had played as a senior at Thomson.
“We knew we needed to improve our secondary play from last year. We knew that going in,” defensive coordinator Jack Curtis said. “We talked about it in spring ball and throughout the summer. We didn’t want to depend on a freshman to come out there (in the secondary). We knew Darius was athletic. He ran well. He’s physical and smart. He had all the attributes that can play free safety.”
Through seven games, Eubanks has looked like a natural. He makes 6.3 tackles a game this season after registering 6.4 tackles a year ago.
Eubanks helped save the night against Elon in the Eagles’ third game of the season. Late in the game, he alertly ran to the ball following a long pass completion and was nearby to collect a loose ball to halt a potential Phoenix game-winning drive.
“(Eubanks) has been a big part of a defense that has been playing well,” Curtis said. “His leadership out there, knowing the defense and making the calls have helped greatly. He runs well, covers a lot of ground and the best thing he does is (he) plays great with his eyes. He sees things before they happen and can react.”
Eubanks has been a starter with the Eagles since arriving from Thomson. During his first three years, he had been at outside linebacker. Last season, with the arrival of Curtis as coordinator, Eubanks moved to a position the Eagles called “buck” – a roving strong-side linebacker.
“I miss linebacker, but (at safety) I enjoy being able to fit against the run and touch the pass a lot more,” Eubanks said. “There’s still just as much contact as linebacker, but I don’t have to worry about getting tangled up with linemen. Basically, I’m a free hitter. The only difference is I’m in more space.”