Georgia State’s football team recently wrapped up its most successful season under coach Trent Miles.
The Panthers went 6-7, that seventh defeat coming in their first bowl game. The team won its final four regular season games to earn that bowl berth.
I’ll review each position group and preview what that unit may look like when spring practice begins sometime in March.
Starters: Shawanye Lawrence, Jalen Lawrence and Mackendy Cheridor started most of the games.
Returning: All three players, as well as Carnell Hopson, Tevin Jones and Julien Laurent. Key backups include Will Cunningham, DeQueszman Kelley, Nich Long and Jamal Paxton, among others.
What’d they do? This group probably showed the most improvement of any on the team, including at quarterback. Though none matched their stats from the previous season, the group played significantly better, particularly over the last six games.
From the final notes: “The Panthers finished in the top four in the Sun Belt in scoring defense (28.3 ppg), total defense (405.6 ypg), rushing defense (181.4 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (120.3). GSU improved by more than 122 yards per game against the run from 2014.”
During the four-game winning streak, the defense allowed 14.25 points and 328 yards per game.
Outlook: Seems fairly solid if the group continues to play like it did in the last half of the 2014 season. The next step will be them to make impact plays. The two Lawrences had just a half-sack between them, and Cheridor added three more. The contributed just 11 tackles for loss.
There are lots of reasons for that: First, their job is to tie up blockers so that the linebackers can make plays.
Second, the group had more depth so the tackles were spread around to more players.
Third, they weren’t on the field as much, so there fewer chances to make tackles.
But the front three “were beasts” the last half of the season, one of the Georgia State coaches told me during bowl week.
One of the keys for the spring and next August will be to target the underclassmen that can continue to earn time in the rotation so that in 2016, when the two Lawrences have used up their eligibility, the line won’t feature new starters without a lot of experience.