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 second of these three questions will need to be answered:
Who will start on the offensive line? In what has been a revolving door because of injuries and players leaving, Georgia State has had no continuity on the offensive line the past two years.
In 2013, two starters quit after two games. By the end of the season, the Panthers had used nine different starting combinations.
Last year, starting left tackle Michael Ivory suffered a season-ending injury in the fifth game against Louisiana-Lafayette. By the end of the season, the Panthers had used six different starting combinations.
Just one player, A.J. Kaplan, started every game the past two years.
That’s not a recipe for a consistent offense or a way to improve probability of winning.
The revolving door may finally stop spinning this year.
There is a lot of experience returning, which should help a running game that couldn’t average more than 100 yards per game last year.
The expected starters are Ivory at left tackle, Taylor Evans returning at left guard, UAB transfer Kelepi Folau at center, Alex Stoehr returning at right guard and junior college transfer Dom Roldan at right tackle.
The group spent a lot of time together during the summer working out, building chemistry and camaraderie.
“We’re the strongest we’ve ever been and fastest we’ve ever been,” Evans said. “Senior class is ready to get thing going and get the ball rolling. Want to show everybody what we can really be.”