Georgia State’s football team will open camp on Thursday.
The squad returns eight starters as part of 19 letter-winners on offense and 10 starters as part of 28 letter-winners on defense who are looking to bounce back from last year’s 1-11 season.
The Panthers will open the season hosting Charlotte on Sept. 4 and begin its third season of Sun Belt play at New Mexico State on Sept. 12.
Coach Trent Miles expects to see a stronger, faster more-disciplined team than he saw last year or in his first year in 2012.
“What I see are a great group of young men that are confident, growing, maturing and developing into the type of student-athlete we want: men with character, who are smart, tough and love the game.”
He also expects to see improved results. Though he wouldn’t say making a bowl game is a goal, he didn’t shy away from letting his players say they are discussing that possibility.
“Now we are teaching them how to win and our expectation is to win,” Miles said. “It’s not hope to win. We won’t settle for anything less than that.”
For that to happen, the first of these three questions will need to be answered:
Who will start on the defensive line?
A good defense starts with the ability of those closest to the ball, the linemen, to fulfill their responsibilities.
Georgia State’s defensive linemen have had a rough couple of years. They haven’t been able to either hold up at the point of attack in defending the run, or to occupy blockers in passing situations so that others could get to the quarterback, or to get to the quarterback themselves, or to make impact plays.
Partially as a result, the team has been one of the worst against the run and the worst at pressuring the quarterback.
The defense had 12 sacks last year, second-fewest in the Sun Belt, and 48 tackles for loss. The linemen had one of those sacks. Partly because they couldn’t bring pressure, the Panthers had three interceptions last season, the fewest in the Sun Belt.
The run defense ranked No. 124 out 125 teams after giving up an average of 309.9 yards per game. The defensive linemen had just 9 ½ tackles for loss.
This year’s line will likely feature two new starters in defensive end Mackendy Cheridor, who is moving from outside linebacker, and nose tackle Julien Laurent, who weighs more than 300 pounds and should hold up at the point of attack. The other end should come down to a battle between multiple players.
The line doesn’t shoulder the responsibility for the defense’s ineffectiveness. But turning those results does start there.
Miles believes that now that the returning linemen are a year older and stronger, they will be able to play faster.
“Now they can worry about scheme and technique rather than just surviving,” Miles said. “You will see a vastly improved football team.”