Continuing the Georgia State football A-to-Z series.
Quick recap: the Panthers went 6-7 last season with that last loss coming in the team’s first bowl game, the Cure Bowl in Orlando against San Jose State.
Coach Trent Miles will return seven-eight starts on offense (depending upon your definition of what makes a starter) and nine on defense.
The team should be picked to finish in the top half of the media polls and, if not for the lock that Appalachian State will likely have on first-place votes, might even receive a vote or two in that category.
Anyway, off we go:
P is for Penny Hart
Penny Hart was one of my favorite stories to write last year.
When the pre-camp media day was held, quarterback Nick Arbuckle and a few of the guys kept mentioning Hart as a guy to watch.
To be fair and to be honest, I don’t pay a lot of attention to the true freshmen, typically because the difference between high school football and college football is as massive as the difference between college football and pro football. Moving up a level can be overwhelming and it’s rare to see a true freshman impact a game.
Well, Hart became one of the exceptions.
Because he isn’t big (5-foot-8, 170 pounds) and bounced between positions because of need at his small high school, Hart’s only offer came from Georgia State – ironically after a performance at one of the camps that the NCAA recently tried to ban before wising up – and he made the most of it, eventually receiving his scholarship offer.
Once on campus, it seems he attached himself to Arbuckle and the other wide receivers and worked out with them as often as possible. So, he knew the offense and he developed a chemistry when the season opened.
He started slow with one catch against Charlotte, but it went for a 53-yard touchdown.
He then went crazy with 11 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns at New Mexico State.
He caught at least three passes in every game after that to finish with 64 receptions for 966 yards and seven touchdowns. He was named the Sun Belt’s newcomer of the year and a freshman all-american.
Can he repeat that performance this season?
On the plus side, almost every receiver from last year’s group returns, so defenses can’t focus on just one guy. If they try to take away Robert Davis on the outside, Hart should have room inside. If they try to crowd Hart, tight end Keith Rucker, Davis on the outside or Todd Boyd on the other side should have room.
The biggest challenge will be the change in quarterbacks.
Hart’s connection with Arbuckle was undeniable. Can he create the same with Emiere Scaife, Aaron Winchester and/or Conner Manning?