Release from Georgia State Athletics:
ATLANTA — After facing the top two teams in the Sun Belt Conference preseason poll the last two weeks, Georgia State now prepares for the league’s third-best team in the preseason rankings as the Panthers travel to South Alabama Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Georgia State (1-5, 0-3 Sun Belt) began this rugged Sun Belt stretch with a road game at UL Lafayette, 2013 Sun Belt co-champion and the unanimous preseason favorite to win the league this year, followed by Arkansas State, which shared last year’s title and was picked second in the preseason. Following South Alabama, Georgia State hosts Georgia Southern, which currently sits atop the league standings.
“We have hit the gauntlet right now in our schedule,” Georgia State head coach Trent Miles said Tuesday. “Lafayette, Arkansas State, South Alabama, Georgia Southern. Those right there are the upper four of the conference. Those guys are all good on defense and very similar and play very hard and are well coached.”
Focusing on this week’s game, Miles said of South Alabama, “They are a very experienced team. They’re very physical and fast on defense, and offensively they’re a good team with a senior quarterback who can run and throw. We’ve got to have a much better week of practice mentally. We are good physically every week in practice but this week, mentally, we have to get out of the thoughts of losing to Arkansas State.”
The Jaguars rank among the Sun Belt leaders in total defense (third, 374.8 ypg), pass defense (second, 190.8 ypg), rushing defense (fourth, 184.0 ypg) and scoring defense (third, 21.4 ppg).
“They are long and very athletic,” Miles said of the South Alabama defense. “They play extremely hard and are well coached. The reason they’re so good on pass defense is because those guys up front can get to the quarterback. They don’t have to blitz to create pressure. They can rush four and get there. They were able to rush four and get to the quarterback against Mississippi State.”
Georgia State has been productive offensively but will face this defense with an offensive line that must overcome the loss of starting left tackle Michael Ivory to a season-ending foot injury. Senior A.J. Kaplan moves from right to left tackle, and the Panthers are still experimenting with the right side of the line. Miles and his staff are looking at Steve Wolgamott or Taylor Evans at right tackle, and some combination of Evans, Akil Hawkins, Garrett Gorringe or Jah-Mai Davidson at right guard.
“You play with the hand you’re dealt,” Miles said. “We’re going to plug in guys that will play hard and they’re going to go out there and perform to the best of their ability.”
Georgia State is playing at South Alabama’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium for the first time since the inaugural season of 2010, when the Jaguars earned a 39-34 victory. Five current Panthers were on the team at that time–Tim Wynn, Jarrell Robinson, Ronald Martin and Marcus Stetzer–but none played in the game.