COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2012 PRESEASON TOP 25
Sun Belt PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Trent Miles, First Season | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jeff Jagodzinski | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jesse Minter
The challenges are many for new coach Trent Miles and offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski — a former head coach at Boston College — as they take over an offense that averaged just 17.4 points per game against a Colonial Athletic Association schedule. Much experience does return, and the coaches hope a change in philosophy will increase production. There will be more of a two-back, under-center approach that will feature underneath passes and a grind-it-out mentality.
At quarterback, Ben McLane returns after starting nine games as a redshirt freshman. McLane completed just over 50 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and is regarded as a game manager who makes solid decisions with the ball.
Junior college transfer Gerald Howse is in line to be the top running back, with senior Travis Evans spelling him.
The offense’s top player is wideout Albert Wilson, who caught 48 passes for 947 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012. The new staff will try to get the ball in Wilson’s hands as much as possible.
The starting offensive line returns, led by 6'8", 290-pound NFL prospect tackle Ulrick John. The group surrendered 28 sacks last season, but the hope is that a more experienced unit and shorter passing game will reduce that number.
There is reason for optimism on the defensive side of the ball. Five starters return, and the hope is that Georgia State will be formidable against the run. Defensive linemen Theo Agnew and Terrance Woodard were second and third, respectively, on the Panthers in tackles a year ago, and they are being joined by a pair of talented newcomers. Kentucky transfer Nermin Delic is eligible after sitting out and should start right away, and junior college transfer George Rogers looked like one of the top defensive linemen in spring ball.
New defensive coordinator Jesse Minter, whose unit allowed just 14.3 points per game at Indiana State last season, is switching to a 3-4 alignment. The new scheme means a position change for John Kelly, who moves from end to outside linebacker. Top tackler Joseph Peterson is back at inside linebacker and is joined by Robert Ferguson, giving the front seven some solid experience.
Defending the pass could be an issue early, as Kail Singleton and Arington Jordan move into starting roles at the safety spots. Corners Jamal Ransby and Brent McClendon return, but they were part of a unit that surrendered 26 passing touchdowns and came up with just 10 interceptions.
Kicker Wil Lutz won the starting job during the season and should be dependable, especially from inside 40. Lutz was 4-of-7 as a freshman, hitting all three from inside the 40. Punter Matt Hubbard also returns after averaging a solid 43.1 yards, with 21 kicks going over 50 yards last season. Wilson is a dangerous return man, handling both kickoff and punt return duties. The speedster averaged 25.9 yards per kick return and took one back 100 yards for a score.
There is no question that Miles faces an uphill climb in Year 1 with the move from FCS to FBS and the Sun Belt Conference. Georgia State struggled to compete in the CAA last season, finishing 1–7 and losing six of those games by at least 20 points.
But Miles is no stranger to rebuilds. Indiana State was the worst FCS program in the nation when he was hired in 2008, with a 1–32 record in the three seasons prior to his arrival. He struggled early, but went 19–14 (13–11 in the Missouri Valley) in his final three seasons. The guy clearly knows how to coach.