STATESBORO, Ga. - Junior nose tackle Brent Russell (Comer, Ga.) may have said it best after the 2011 Georgia Southern Football team completed the first of its 29 preseason practices.
"How hard we work on the field is how far we'll go," Russell said Thursday evening.
His statement may have been part reflection on the success of the 2010 team, but more commentary on what the commitment the Eagles will have to have for the work ahead for 2011.
A total of 95 student-athletes donned shorts and helmets for the Eagles as 63 returners helped the 27 newcomers run through the paces of practice. While this spring's practices suffered some as starters and key personnel were sidelined by injuries, all 11 offensive starters from 2010 are back as are nine starters from the defensive side of the ball. Monken and the staff have determined more than a semblance of a depth chart, just one of the many luxuries the coaching staff enjoys in its second year.
"I think the guys understand the expectations," Monken said. "Their first camp with us, they really didn't know what to expect. They didn't know just how practices were going to be set up, what times we were going to practice, how many two-a-days we were going to have, what to count on in terms of tempo and intensity. At least for all the veterans, they realize that now, and that makes it easier on them and they can help the younger guys. It definitely benefits us."
While Monken and his staff were not only installing the option offense and a new 4-3 defense last year, they also had to emphasize the philosophies they wanted the Eagles to adopt: playing hard, playing tough and playing together. Teaching the attitude was every bit as important as teaching the fundamentals.
"We are not having to push them and coach them on tempo and what we expect in terms of effort, and those kinds of things," reiterated the second-year head coach of the Eagles. "They understand. Those are still things we are going to have to be vigilant about watching, and making sure that they are up to the standards we want as a staff. We're way ahead in a lot of areas because of this being our second year. It will make it an easier job for us to come out here and coach Xs and Os and prepare schematically, rather than having to coach the fundamentals and effort, toughness and playing together, and those kinds of things."
The Eagles got right into drills after a stretching period and ran through period 11 when the team was brought under Herring Pavilion to wait out a lightning delay. Coach Monken trimmed a few periods off practice to stay on schedule, picking up with skelly before ending practice with one period of offense versus defense.
The temperature on the banks of "Beautiful Eagle Creek" hit 97 degrees with the heat index measured at 113. Following a routine in the morning with breakfast and weightlifting for offense and defense, the Eagles have position and team meetings before taking the field at 2:45 p.m. on Friday.
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Practice Schedule for 2011 Georgia Southern Preseason Camp
August 5, 2011 - 2:45 p.m.
August 6, 2011 - 2:45 p.m.
August 7, 2011 - 3:20 p.m.
August 8, 2011 - 2:45 p.m.
August 9, 2011 - 9:00 a.m. / 4:33 p.m.
August 10, 2011 - no practice
August 11, 2011 - 9:00 a.m. / 4:33 p.m.
August 12, 2011 - 2:45 p.m.
August 13, 2011 - 2:45 p.m.
August 14, 2011 - 3:45 p.m.
August 15, 2011 - 9:00 a.m. / 4:33 p.m.
August 16, 2011 - no practice
August 17, 2011 - 9:00 a.m. / 4:33 p.m.
August 18, 2011- 2:45 p.m.
August 19, 2011 - 2:45 p.m.
August 20, 2011 - 10:05 a.m. (at Paulson)
4-5:30 p.m. Meet the Eagles event (at Paulson Stadium)
August 21, 2011 -- 2:45 p.m.
August 22, 2011 -- First day of classes, no practice