Week two brings us another matchup of teams that went 3-9 in 2021, except that Georgia Southern changed coaches, hiring Southern Cal’s Clay Helton to turn things around. There’s little expectation that changing the offense from the triple option to Helton’s pro-style attack will succeed immediately. Success in 2022 won’t be measured so much by wins and losses, but rather in showing improvement in Statesboro, Georgia.
Georgia Southern’s top two returning quarterbacks saw the writing on the wall and hit the transfer portal this spring. Buffalo transfer Kyle Vantrease (6’2” 225 lbs.) completed over 61% of his passes last season for eight touchdowns with six interceptions. Against the Huskers, Vantrease completed 27 of 50 passes for 224 yards and a Luke Reimer interception. Sophomore Connor Cigelske (6’0” 195 lbs.) completed just 22 of 36 passes last season for 229 yards and an interception. Chances are that if Vantrease gets injured, Helton would probably turn to incoming freshmen David Dallas (6’0” 195 lbs.) or Zak Rozsman (6’3” 200 lbs.) or Troy transfer Kyle Toole (6’2” 218 lbs.).
As the Eagles move to more of a pro-style attack, they do have a solid running back corps to work with, starting with senior JD King (5’11” 215 lbs.). King was limited to four games last year recovering from ACL surgery, but has started 16 games in his career, rushing for 1,541 yards. Sophomore Gerald Green (5’9” 195 lbs.) has rushed for 973 yards in his career while sophomore Jalen White (6’0” 215 lbs.) rushed for 363 yards last season. Amare Jones (5’11” 195 lbs.) is a dual threat, rushing for 363 yards and four touchdowns last season while catching 25 passes for 351 yards.
The receiver room returns most of last year’s production starting with junior Khaleb Hood (5’10” 195 lbs.) who caught 41 passes for 497 yards last season. Sophomore Derwin Burgess (5’11” 185 lbs.) caught 17 passes for 311 yards in 2021. Georgia Southern also adds Houston transfer Jeremy Singleton (6’0” 190 lbs.) who caught 29 passes for 493 yards and five touchdowns for the Cougars in 2021. Singleton, who’s started 30 games in his career, will certainly make the transition from a triple-option offense to a pro-style attack much smoother.
Four starters return on the offensive line starting with two-year starting right guard Khalil Crowder (6’1” 305 lbs.), a third team all-Sun Belt honoree last season. Senior left guard Brian Miller (6’3” 305 lbs.) is moving inside from tackle, where he’s been a multi-year starter. The Eagles weren’t very good in pass protection last season; that’s something that will have to improve in 2022.
Only five starters return from a defense that ranked in the bottom half of the Sun Belt conference. Up front, Georgia Southern will rely on returning senior defensive ends Dillon Springer (6’1” 255 lbs.) and Justin Ellis (6’2” 255 lbs.) Ellis was a honorable mention all-Sun Belt Conference honoree last season, leading the Eagles with five sacks and four quarterback hurries.
Georgia Southern will have to replace almost all of last year’s production at linebacker due to departures via the transfer portal. Junior Khadry Jackson (6’1” 230 lbs.) did total 23 tackles last year as a reserve.
The strength of the Georgia Southern defense will almost certainly be the secondary. Sophomore cornerback Derrick Canteen (5’11” 185 lbs.) was a FWAA Freshman All-American in 2020, but missed most of 2021 due to injury. Sophomore safety Anthony Wilson (5’10” 200 lbs.) led GSU with 78 tackles last season, earning him third team all-Sun Belt honors. At the other safety position, junior Justin Birdsong (511” 185 lbs.) and Tyrell Davis (6’1” 190 lbs.) will split time. Elon transfer cornerback Mari Wingard (6’0” 185 lbs.) will also solidify this group.
Will Georgia Southern be better in 2022? Probably. Will they improve enough to make a bowl game? That’s the question, and it’ll probably be up to see how fast the defense can fill the holes that graduation and the transfer portal left. To me, that looks like a stretch goal for this season.
What’s your prediction when Georgia Southern comes to Lincoln
This poll is closed
Clay Helton pulls off the stunning upset of the Huskers
It’s not very pretty, but Nebraska gets a win.
This one is over early as the Big Red rolls.