ATLANTA– With music blaring from speakers on the field, the 2013 Georgia State Panthers went through their final full practice for Friday night’s season opener against Samford. In between reps players could be seen bobbing their heads and tapping their feet as the music ran the gamut from rock to rap to r&b to country. I even heard a gospel tune by Kirk Franklin. Perhaps that was fitting because these Panthers could use a little help from above to cope with a schedule that includes West Virginia, and defending national champion, Alabama.
The music even causes Head Coach Trent Miles to show off a brief move. You might not think it the type of behavior befitting man who is headed into his first game as head coach of a program that finished 1-10 last fall. It is the way that Miles likes to handle game week. ” The closer it gets to the game, the more relaxed I get,” says Miles. “I feel in my comfort zone.” This is a big difference from the stern task master who along with a totally new coaching staff have challenged the Panthers to be ready for their first season at the FBS level.
There are many veterans on this squad, but expect Miles to inject a healthy dose of youth this fall. Watch for true freshman Shawanye Lawrence at defensive end. The Eagle’s Landing High School product has earned the starting job. “We just expect him to do his job,” says Defensive Coordinator Jesse Minter. ” He has veterans around him up front. Once you play one play it’s not new anymore.”
One veteran you won’t see is Travis Evans. The Panthers leading returning rusher is suspended for game one for breaking a team rule back in the spring. Also, Miles is not expected to name a starter a quarterback until game day. Ronnie Bell and Ben McLane have been sharing time with the first unit throughout preseason camp.
Trent Miles knows what he is up against. He has to attract the attention of a college football crazy town, that loves to get behind a winner. He has to energize a student body that is still getting used to having a team of it’s own. A win over Samford will be a giant step in the right direction.Kickoff is 7pm Friday night at the Georgia Dome.