STATESBORO, Ga. (WSAV) – After their first team stretch, the Georgia Southern Eagles immediately leapt into a high-tempo, no-huddle drill, firing off play after play with no more than 10 seconds between snaps.
It set the tone for the first two-hour practice of Georgia Southern training camp, which would be all about tempo. The Eagles focused on moving rapidly all throughout the drills, which they hope will give them an advantage against visiting opponents in the unforgiving South Georgia heat.
“We’ve always believed in relentless effort,” said head coach Clay Helton. “These kids, as you’ve seen and witnessed, they practice so hard. There is only one speed that we practice with, it is four to six seconds per play that is all-out, relentless effort. And you do that from the start of practice to the finish.”
That increased pace is hardly the only change at the Eagles’ first practice. Helton opted for Paulson Stadium as the venue for the first camp instead of the usual location next to Eagle Creek. There was also a much bigger emphasis on passing, which tracks with just about everything that fans have seen in open practices and the Spring Game.
New starting quarterback Kyle Vantrease will bear a lot of the responsibility for making Helton’s new air-based attack work. The Buffalo transfer strapped the pads on for the first time since Spring practice on Wednesday, working alongside redshirt sophomore Connor Cigelske, freshman Zak Roszman and the rest of the quarterback unit.
“There’s true veteran leadership there,” Saban said. “I mean, just poised. Its like he’s done it a thousand times. which he has. You’re talking about a 23 or 24-year old man that’s been in a lot of wars. He was able to go out there today and lead his group and keep that poise.”
The start of a new season also means the return of almost all the players that were injured for the Eagles at the end of last year, including defensive back Derrick Canteen, who was slated to be one of the best corners in the country before tearing his right pectoral muscle in September of 2021.
Canteen told the media that he was 100 percent healthy and that the injury was behind him.
“The offseason and the spring has been huge for us,” Canteen said. “Not just for me, but for the team. You have to trust in your abilities and trust in your skills and that the work that you put in carries over to the field. I don’t really look too much into the injury. I just look at the work we all put in and trust my teammates and trust myself.”
“It’s always different when you put helmets on and are out here in the middle of the heat,” added lineman Justin Ellis. “It’s just getting your body acclimated to it and getting the mental reps and getting the physical reps and putting it all together. It was a good first day, but it’s just the first step in the building process.”
Georgia Southern has a total of six practices before classes begin on Aug. 10, which will impose restrictions on players’ schedules. That’s why it’s crucial for Helton to get everything he can out of the players before then, when they are able to be around the facility all day.
“These opening six practices are really important. We’ve got a little bit of extra time to come in the morning and be able to really get a great practice in. We watch the tape in the afternoon and reinstall for the next day.”
The first of two scrimmages for the year will be on Saturday, Aug. 13 at Paulson Stadium. The second is on Saturday, Aug. 20 in Savannah’s Memorial Stadium.
Georgia Southern’s first game is on Saturday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. in Paulson Stadium against Morgan State.