Georgia State camp watch: Running game

Georgia State running back Kyler Neal. (Courtesy of Georgia State)

Georgia State running back Kyler Neal. (Courtesy of Georgia State)

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 third of these three questions will need to be answered:

Can the running game finally get going?

Miles wants to run the ball. He has wanted to run the ball each of the past two seasons. But it’s hard to run the ball when the players on the offensive line either leave or suffer injuries, or the running backs leave or suffer injuries. Last year’s team averaged 96.3 yards per game, not nearly enough to keep an offense on the field and a struggling defense off the field.

So if the offensive line stays healthy, Georgia State may finally have a running game this season.

And there are a lot of running backs to choose from, including the return of Krysten Hammon, who left the team after the second game last year.

Kyler Neal is healthy after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the loss at Washington. He had 40 carries for 209 yards last year.

Marcus Caffey, who started at cornerback before moving to running back, then to cornerback and now back to running back, finishing with a team-high 354 rushing yards last year.

Joining the team are UAB transfer Demarcus Kirk and junior college signee Kendrick Dorn, who has the size to become an every-down back if he can prove he can block in the passing game.

“We all complement each other very well,” Neal said.

Miles said they will play more than one running back. Neal said any of them can start.

“What these young men have shown me since I’ve been here is when they put their mind to something they will find a way to get it done,” Miles said.

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