Georgia State’s spring-ending Blue and White game will be more like a practice than a Panther-palooza.
The event, scheduled to start at 1 p.m. at the Georgia Dome, will feature a few minutes of basic scrimmaging, some special-teams drills and some seven-on-seven exercises.
Coach Trent Miles doesn’t have enough healthy bodies to run anything more than first-team offense against first-team defense. The offensive line, for example, is down to eight healthy players.
Because most of the players who signed in February haven’t enrolled yet and because of injuries to those currently on the team, don’t read too much into the players you see lining up on the first team Saturday. Some may not be the same as you see against Samford in the season opener at the Georgia Dome on Aug. 30.
“There are no jobs guaranteed until we line up in the very first game,” Miles said. “And then it’s how you grade out in that game. So everyday it’s going to be competition.”
Here are five things to watch Saturday:
The picking up of the new schemes. The defense, led by coordinator Jesse Minter, seems to be slightly ahead of its learning curve while the offense isn’t where coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski hoped it would be. Defenses almost always are ahead of offenses when new schemes are installed.
Neither the offense nor the defense will do anything complex in terms of formations or plays Saturday, sticking with the approach the coaches have used in the previous scrimmages this spring as they try to reinforce the fundamentals.
“We tried putting in the base schemes, and we didn’t get as far as I wanted to,” Jagodzinski said. “If you can’t get the first thing, you can’t get the second step. So we kept going back and working fundamentals. That’s what it comes down to anyway. It’s not the plays, it’s the players. That’s how it has been and how it always will be.”
Minter said he it took three weeks for the players to begin to understand the expectations, and he has had to spend a lot of time teaching fundamentals. As an example, he said when spring practice started, too many players would watch the ball after the snap, instead of fulfilling their responsibilities. Now, they are no longer ball-watching and are working more closely together to execute the plays.
“I’m pleased with the progress, but it’s definitely been a work in progress,” he said.
The quarterbacks. Ben McLane has looked the best of the three quarterbacks, a group that includes Ronnie Bell and junior-college signee Clay Chastain, who have played most of the snaps this spring. McLane was named the starter coming out of last spring’s practices and passed for 1,592 yards with 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as a redshirt freshman. Miles said he likely won’t name anyone the starter until two weeks before the season opener.
The trio will split snaps Saturday. Each will get four snaps in the seven-on-seven drills. Each will get three in some of the other drills, and Miles said they will alternate so that each will get a chance to work with the first-team offense.
The running backs. Travis Evans and junior-college signee Gerald Howse have split almost all of the carries throughout the spring. Evans (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) has displayed possibly the best attitude on the team during practices, running out every drill and running hard in the scrimmages. He finished strong last season after Donald Russell was lost to an injury.
Howse has lost almost 10 pounds this spring and looks more athletic than he did when practices started. At 210 pounds, he is the bigger back that Miles tends to like to use.
“We are teaching them fundamentals: where to run, what hole to hit and more importantly on protections,” Jagodzinski said. “We have gotten better at the protection part, but the overall consistency, we aren’t close to where we need to be.”
The secondary. The group had issues last season for a variety of reasons, including the team’s lack of a pass rush. However, the Panthers returned experienced cornerbacks in Brent McClendon, Jamal Ransby and Demarius Matthews but needed to find safeties. Kail Singleton has stepped in, and Minter said he’s pleased with his progress, as well as that of Arington Jordan, a senior who played mostly special teams last season.
Minter singled out McClendon as someone who has picked up the schemes better than perhaps anyone on the defense.
“Good things have happened to him because he does what he’s supposed to do,” Minter said. “It’s a good learning point for the other guys.”
The wide receivers. Albert Wilson and Danny Williams likely won’t play Saturday because of injuries, which will give other players a chance to move up the depth chart.
One player who has impressed Jagodzinski is Kelton Hill, who moved from safety to wide receiver earlier this week. It’s the fifth position change for Hill in less than a year. He started at quarterback last season, briefly moved to safety and then seemed to settle in at wide receiver. He started at quarterback this spring, moved to safety and then moved back to wide receiver.
“He made more plays in two days than we’ve made all spring,” Jagodzinski said. “It wasn’t the plays. It was the same plays. It was the player doing it well. I’m excited about seeing him do that. He’s got a role he can play with the team.”