While the Panthers are going to be without some considerable talent and leadership, there are plenty of players still on hand to pick up the slack. On the offensive side of the ball (including special teams) Georgia State returns 31 players including 8 seniors, 14 Juniors and 9 Sophomores.
Notable Returnees on the Offense
Penny Hart – Perhaps no high school football player slipped under the proverbial recruiting radar more than Hart. The freshman wide receiver received more accolades in his first year as a Panther that might draw envy from most Olympic athletes this summer in Rio. Hart was named SunBelt Freshman of the Year, First team All-SunBelt Conference and Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America. Those awards were bestowed after recording 5 games with 100 yards, 1099 yards and 8 touchdowns on 71 receptions as a freshman Wide Receiver for the Panthers. Opposing Defensive Coordinators will likely have their sights on Hart at all times this coming season, but he will still be a force to be reckoned with.
Keith Rucker – Rucker was the third leading receiver for the Panthers in 2015 with 522 yards and 6 touchdowns as a Tight End. Rucker had a notable performance in the win versus Troy with 10 receptions and 154 yards. Rucker earned conference honors and was named to the second team All-SunBelt. Rucker was thrust into the starting role after fellow Tight End Joel Ruiz suffered a season ending injury and is now off to secure a spot in the NFL. Rucker turned out to be a match up nightmare, and I expect him to pick up where he left off in 2015.
Glenn Smith – The running game picked up some steam in 2015 with a pretty solid corps of backs to pick up some short yardage. Coming back for 2016, along with Kyler Neal and Taz Bateman, Glenn Smith will be returning to the field for the Panthers coming off a season as the leading rusher with 356 yards on the ground with a touchdown and added 115 yards receiving last season after injuries sidelined Neal and Bateman. Smith recorded two 100 yard games at Arkansas State and home in the win over Troy in the Georgia Dome. The Panthers should have a pretty solid three headed monster in the running game heading into the 2016 season.
Notable Positions of Concern
There are some positions of concern on this side of the ball.
With the loss of Arbuckle, only two quarterbacks, Emiere Scaife and Brett Sheehan, return from a season ago leaving position with very little leadership and playing experience at the position. Scaife did have some playing in time in 3 games in 2015 but has yet to complete a pass. Not a good situation for an offense centered around the passing game.
The Panthers do return 9 players along the offensive line providing some valuable experience for whichever quarterback takes over the reins from Nick Arbuckle. There is help on the way, but they will need to get up to speed quickly if the injury bug rears its ugly head.