STATESBORO, Ga. — Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken reels off names as if he’s shouting out roll call.
“Zach Walker, Robert Brown, Dominique Swope, Jerick McKinnon …”
Georgia Southern will hold its annual spring game today and break from its traditional split-squad format.
“Logan Daves, Cody Rediger, Javon Mention, Josh Gebhardt …”
The Eagles’ offense will compete against the defense with points doled out in the traditional ways – touchdowns, field goals and safeties – along with extra incentives for big offensive and defensive plays.
“Tre Griffin, George Osunde, Rashad Williams, Jamal Johnson …”
After the game, the Eagles will receive rings for earning a share of the 2012 Southern Conference championship.
“Josh Rowe, Patrick Flowe, Lavelle Westbrook, Nick Wright.”
Monken finished naming just some of the players who will not be competing today. They have been kept out of contact because of injuries or post-season surgeries. Many will be starters in the fall.
“It’s been a different spring,” Monken said. “The announcement of (joining) the FBS and the realization that we’re not competing for a championship – that’s been a blow.
“We’ve also had a lot of injuries and we’ve been watching guys practicing who won’t play a lot in the fall. You look like a different group when you don’t have those starters in. It’s been a little bit of a struggle.”
Spring practice is usually a time to get players some experience. In accordance with NCAA regulations, teams are allowed 15 workouts in a 28-day period when school is in session.
Players had just come back from spring break when news broke that the school had accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference.
It meant a new, higher level of competition for the Eagles, who had won six national titles in the Football Championship Subdivision and had been close to a seventh after three trips to the semifinals under Monken.
But Sun Belt play won’t start until 2014, leaving 2013 as a transition year. The Eagles will be competing in the Southern Conference but won’t be eligible for the league title or FCS playoffs.
But there are still goals. Former quarterback Matt Dobson, a rising sophomore, is trying to make the transition to safety.
“It’s been good working on fundamentals and the basics,” Dobson said. “We’ve been working hard, just trying to get better.”
Southern will be without its starting quarterback McKinnon, who broke his left hand (non-throwing) before spring practice and has been kept out of contact.
Ezayi Youyoute, McKinnon’s backup, has missed practice to concentrate on academics, leaving freshmen backups Vegas Harley and Kevin Ellison to take snaps today.
Monken is hoping to see players execute some of the basics. The Eagles will hold two more workouts next week to conclude spring practice.
“We’ll see guys out there without (a coach) telling them where they’re suppose to be and they have to communicate among one another and compete,” Monken said.