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Young Georgia State heads into full-time FBS competition

POSTED: August 16, 2013 8:14 p.m.

ATLANTA — Georgia State is making a bold move to the Sun Belt Conference and the Football Bowl Subdivision.

In only its third season, Georgia State bid farewell to the Football Championship Subdivision by closing the 2012 season with a 51-7 loss to Maine. The Panthers finished 1-10 and were outscored 424-191 in their final season with Bill Curry as coach.

Now Georgia State takes its 10-23 record to the FBS.

The Panthers have a new coach, Trent Miles, and continue to look for their new quarterback as they prepare for a schedule that includes Alabama and West Virginia.

Three sophomores — Ben McLane, who started nine games in 2012, Ronnie Bell and junior college transfer Clay Chastain — are competing at quarterback. Bell made two starts last year.

Here are five things to watch as keys to Georgia State's season:

1. ESTABLISH TOUGHNESS: Miles is determined to install more than schemes. He's emphasizing a new, tough mindset. He said he wants the Panthers to believe "we are an attitude football team that is going to try to shove it down your throat, offensively and defensively. It's my job as a coach to get them to understand that."

2. PICK A QUARTERBACK: Miles wants competition at every position, but he must choose a quarterback to lead the team into its Aug. 30 opener against Samford at the Georgia Dome. "We're not ready to say that anybody has separated himself," Miles said after the first scrimmage of preseason practice. "All three are doing some good things, and all three are making some mistakes."

3. REPLACE RUSSELL: Georgia State must replace its all-time leading rusher, Donald Russell, who now is in the Atlanta Falcons' camp. There is experience at running back with senior Travis Evans, who ran for 323 yards last season, including starts in the last three games when Russell was hurt. Two new names at the position are Gerald Howse, a transfer from Northeast Oklahoma A&M, and freshman Kyler Neal from East Paulding High School.

4. MAKE ROOM FOR THE NEWCOMERS: Miles and his staff's first recruiting class could make a quick impact. One freshman to watch is receiver Robert Davis of Northside-Warner Robins High School. Davis had two catches for 50 yards, including a 41-yarder, in the first scrimmage. Freshmen also made big plays on defense in the scrimmage. Linebacker Trey Payne recorded a sack, defensive tackle Tevin Jones had a tackle for loss and linebacker Kight Dallas recovered a fumble.

5. LEARN A NEW PRO-STYLE OFFENSE: Miles hired former Boston College coach and Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Jeff Jagodzinski as offensive coordinator. Jagodzinski, who coached Matt Ryan at Boston College, inherits senior receivers Albert Wilson, who led the team with 48 catches for 947 yards and seven touchdowns, and Danny Williams, who had 20 catches.

Predicted finish in the Sun Belt: Eighth (last).


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