STATESBORO, Ga. -- everything seemed just a little different at Georgia Southern football practice this week.
Triple option suddenly isn’t in the vernacular. The passing game and an uptempo workout were evident during the first day of spring football at the Eagles practice field.
Energy and enthusiasm were in abundance, but first-year coach Willie Fritz warns first practices are just that — first practices.
“I thought the kids did a very good job of adapting to what we trying to do as far as practice is concerned,” Fritz said. “For the most part, I think it went well. It was still a first practice, but I think we learned a lot.”
A larger gathering of fans than usual, a curious 50-75, turned out at Georgia Southern’s practice field to see the Fritz era get off the ground.
Eight players and two coaches were requested for interviews by media, leading Fritz to joke, “Who isn’t being interviewed?”
It was a little different than relatively isolated Sam Houston State, where Fritz left to take over the Eagles after Army lured away coach Jeff Monken.
“Everything needs change,” said GSU sophomore Nardo Govan. “The world adapts all the time.”
Govan likes the change that’s occurring on the playing field. Under Fritz’s direction, the Eagles will add more passing to the offensive attack. Fritz is bringing in the spread attack.
Last season, Sam Houston was balanced in running and passing while averaging more than 40 points a game.
In 2011 and 2012, Fritz and the Bearkats advanced to the Football Championship Subdivision finals — a round further than GSU, although both schools lost to powerhouse North Dakota State.
“It was a new change,” Govan said. “New voices and everything. A different way of motivation, but all in all, he’s all about energy and getting you there. As long as a coach is pushing you to be great, you can follow that anywhere.
“We actually like the groove. It’s something new. It’s something easy to transition to. After a couple of practices, it’s going to be flowing well.”
The new offense will be quarterback friendly.
“We excited about being a little more diverse in the offensive game,” said rising sophomore quarterback Kevin Ellison. “It’s a big change for us, but we’re up for the challenge.”
A new day
Fritz said it was special to take his team across Beautiful Eagle Creek for the first time. There’s a bridge that goes over the drainage ditch that coach Erk Russell made so famous.
“There are so many great traditions here at Georgia Southern, that being one of them,” Fritz said. “I was excited going over the bridge and running on the field — there’s just so much history here. It’s exciting for me to embrace it.”
During the next several hours, the Eagles seemed to embrace Fritz’s philosophy.
The quarterbacks struggled to throw in the 20-mph wind, but wideouts Zach Walker and D’Mario Riggins made spectacular catches to haul in a couple of errant throws.
The only thing uncomfortable in Statesboro on Tuesday was the rapidly declining temperature as the sun began to hide.
“Coaches were more intense, more hard-nosed last season,” said GSU freshman quarterback Alfred “L.A.” Ramsby, who missed last season with knee surgery. “These coaches are players’ coaches.”
Said Govan, “You can feel these coaches are trying to push you.”
The real comparison for schemes and coaching strategies remains about five months away when Southern opens the season against North Carolina State on Aug. 30.
“It’s a big transition, but you enjoy it,” Govan said.