After a little over a month hiatus, ladies and gentlemen, I am back. Jack has done an amazing job since taking over here at College and Magnolia. My articles will be few and far between, now, but this is one I promised I would write and there’s no way I couldn’t deliver on it.
The first game of the season is almost upon us. After the long, dark offseason (though one that - football wise - has been much less dark than previous years), it’s time to get down to business. So, with that, it’s time to also talk Auburn’s opening opponent. For that purpose, we’ve brought in a special guest. What follows is a transcript of my conversation with my good friend, Other Walt. Other Walt covers the Eagles for Forgotten5.com.
Walt: Good evening! How are things in the world of Georgia Southern football?
Other Walt: Well, after the horror show of last season, things are going fairly well, right now. Tyson Summers - after a rocky first campaign - made the changes that the fan base wanted, and now we’re back to our identity as a Triple Option team. How about Auburn?
Walt: Well, it’s been an up-and-down tenure for Gus Malzahn, but it seems like Auburn has always been just an injury (and a QB) away from doing something great on the order of the 2013 team. The addition of Jarrett Stidham to a team that returned pretty much every other skill player has Auburn fans primed and ready.
Other Walt: That’s just the offense, though. What about that defense? There are some big pieces to replace there, right?
Walt: Yep. However, even with Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams gone, this is still a stout defensive line. Marlon Davidson was the first true freshman to start on the defensive line for Auburn in, well, ever. He returns, along with a ton of other talent on the line like Derrick Brown, Jeff Holland, Paul James III, and now Big Kat Bryant. Also, Nick Coe will play inside and outside and he was a state champion wrestler for a few years in a row in North Carolina, so you know he has the moves to get to the QB. How about Georgia Southern’s defense?
Other Walt: The Eagles lost a lot on defense last season - including Ukeme Eligwe to the NFL Draft as the first Eagle to leave early and was ultimately drafted by the Chiefs. The secondary may be the strength of this year's defense, though. They were a big question last year, but overall acquitted themselves fairly well. Honestly, I think Georgia Southern’s defense in 2016 was actually pretty good at times, but the lack of offense kept them on the field way too long and wore things down.
Walt: We know how that goes with offensive struggles hurting the defense at times over the last few seasons ourselves. Let’s get back to the offense since the Triple Option is what’s always on people’s mind. It’s often referred to as a “high school offense” by its detractors. What makes it such a part of Georgia Southern and the Eagles’ success?
Other Walt: First off... high school offense? The option in forms like the wishbone has been around for a long time and some of the best teams in history have run it. Even though some seem to think it’s boring, it really is a big-play offense. It’s not like it’s a form of spread brought up by a guy who was a high school coach just a few years ago or anything, right? But, to answer your question, it’s a part of Georgia Southern because almost all of the Eagles’ success has been with it. They’ve been successful with it in part because it’s so rare these days, but it’s also an offense that demands precision by the defense. One missed assignment can be the difference between a loss or no gain and a touchdown.
Walt: Sorry to ruffle some feathers there (no pun intended). I’m just repeating what plenty say.
Other Walt: I know, and I’m sure you’re used to the same type of statements. So, how do you think Auburn’s defense will match up against the Option?
Walt: Auburn has a ton of speed on defense. The defensive backs may be the best group we’ve had in years. The same goes with the linebackers. These linebackers were excellent at shutting down Deshaun Watson last year. They’re old-fashioned head hunters just like their coach, Travis Williams, was. The defensive line is also beastly. From watching Option teams like Georgia Tech play big, talented lines, it’s much harder for them to gain yards when they can’t get that initial push. That will be Auburn’s goal, of course, to disrupt the play at the line and get into the backfield at the mesh point of the dive and force pitches outside where the speedy defensive backs and linebackers can wrap things up.
Other Walt: Fair enough. I know Georgia Southern has their work cut out for them against that Front 7. That’s especially true with a brand new QB in Shai Werts. But, hey, the Eagles did pretty well the last time they were in Jordan-Hare with a freshman QB!
Walt: I remember, I was there! I was 7 years old, but I remember it well.
Other Walt: Hey, I was there, too!
Other Walt: ...
Other Walt: Back to the conversation, though. The Eagles have a ton of talented skill players. You wouldn’t know it from last season when the coaching staff took the Ferrari they’d been handed and turned it into a Vespa, but they’re there. Don’t sleep on running backs LA Ramsby and Wesley Fields. They’re a powerful 1-2 punch. Even with Matt Breida gone to the NFL to the 49ers as an Undrafted Free Agent (who is set to make the team because he’s awesome but didn’t get drafted because of the horrific offense that didn’t showcase him last year and cut down the production of a guy who had double-digit 50+ yard TD runs in 2014 and 2015 but I digress), the Eagles have a strong backfield.
Walt: I’ve seen footage of Fields, he reminds me a lot of Tre Mason.
Other Walt: That’s fair, he has some good moves, is elusive, and has a real quick burst when a hole opens.
Walt: That’s some good football talk, now we need to address something else... Y’all copied our Eagle flight. And, you joined the ever-growing legion of teams who have copied Tiger Walk, too. You know we started that, right? We refer to it as “the most copied tradition in football,” now.
Other Walt: The first to have a team walk to the stadium. Big whoop. At least our eagle hasn’t run into a window.
Walt: Oh, come on, like you have reason to talk. I have it on good authority that the VERY NEXT WEEK your Eagle flew off into parking lot and landed at someone’s tailgate!
Other Walt: Oh yeah, well what’s with the mascots? Why do you have two of them? Or three, if we count the whole Plainsman thing.
Walt: First off, what the hell was up with this? On the mascot front, Auburn only has one mascot. The Tiger. War Eagle is a battle cry. Plainsman isn’t really used much, but it is a way to refer to the students.
Other Walt: Still sounds kind of stupid.
Other Walt: Oh, hell no, you’ve gone too far, now. And don’t worry, we’re bringing some of it with us! We sprinkle it in the end zones. The gnats work to keep you out, you see. That’s a tradition started by the great Erk Russell. I believe you’ve heard of him?
Walt: Absolutely! The last 4-sport letterman at Auburn. That’s some common ground we definitely have. Erk is the greatest.
Other Walt: Erk belongs in the College Football Hall of Fame. We can even work together to get him there.
Walt: Oh! I found another thing we can agree on! Brian Van Gorder is the worst.
Other Walt: I’m sorry, I do not know that name. I think you’re talking about a gentleman who has coached at both of our schools. A man who so ruined Georgia Southern football that the sweetest southern woman I’ve ever met (who never cusses) refers to him as “That Damn Yankee Sonuvabitch.” But, yeah, he is the worst.
Walt: Well, Also Walt, thanks for taking the time to talk with me! I take it you’re going to be at the game?
Other Walt: Sure will! Thanks for inviting me. And be sure to look for my game preview at Forgotten5.com this Thursday or Friday! I’ll go a little more in-depth on what I think of the game and the match-ups, then.
Walt: Go luck this weekend. I hope it’s a clean game with no injuries and great times had by all fans involved! War Eagle!
Other Walt: Thanks, and Hail Southern!