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Eagles' secondary on patrol

STATESBORO — It’s pretty hard to look back at Georgia Southern’s inaugural season in the Football Bowl Subdivision and find anything that could be a weak spot. After all, it’s tough to argue with a conference championship and an undefeated Sun Belt record to boot.

But if pressed to find a trouble spot, eyes would drift toward the Eagles’ secondary. Passing numbers against the Eagles may have been a bit inflated due to the Sun Belt’s penchant as a passing league and the fact that so many opponents were forced to play catch-up, but Georgia Southern’s average of allowing 234 yards through the air per game leaves plenty of room for improvement.

“We’ve got a lot of guys back, and we’re farther along with understanding our schemes,” defensive coordinator Jack Curtis said. “It’s always interesting going into a new conference and seeing new teams. I think now we’ve got a better handle on what we need to do.”

This season, the Eagles will load up the secondary with both experience and raw talent.

Senior safeties Matt Dobson and Antonio Glover will reprise their starting roles from last season, while seven freshmen recruits are all challenging to see playing time early in their Georgia Southern careers.

Those seniors have an extra chip on their shoulder when it comes to this season. Not only is it their last year, but NCAA regulations have held them out of postseason action in each of the last two seasons.

“Getting to a bowl is a goal for the team, and it’s definitely something I want to be a part of,” Dobson said. “That’s a motivating factor every day. And motivation is key. That’s something I try to tell the younger guys. It’s easy to be excited for the first few practices of the season, but we need to keep up that level of intensity all year if we’re going to achieve our goals.”

Curtis is comfortable with his returners and is now focusing on building depth.

With many Sun Belt teams prepared to line up in four- and five-wide receiver sets, plenty of Georgia Southern defensive backs figure to see action in each game.

“I was excited with what we signed,” Curtis said. “I’m even more excited now that I’ve seen them on the field. Our young guys are getting lots of reps, and I’m confident that a few of them will be able to help us immediately.”

Curtis spoke highly of the youngest Eagles, mentioning that they have wasted no time working in with the veterans during practice. He also stated that the team is looking to get as much out of each freshman as possible and doesn’t want to simply settle for throwing a bunch of first-year players onto special teams while they wait for a chance to grow into the defensive scheme.

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