Schedule Preview: Georgia Southern

Georgia Southern rolls into Chapel Hill for a showdown with North Carolina on Oct. 10. The FCS Eagles return 14 starters from a squad that posted a 6-5 (4-4 Southern Conference) mark in 2008.

Overview: Chris Hatcher begins his third season as Georgia Southern's head coach hoping to build on 2008's 6-5 (4-4 SoCon) record. The Eagles will have to overcome the loss of Antonio Henton, a versatile offensive weapon that ranked 38th nationally in total offense (225.5 yards per game), but quarterback Lee Chapple (78-of-121 passing, 787 yards, 5 TD, 4 INT) emerged down the stretch to grab the starting spot. The sophomore signal caller set a number of school single-game records in completing 39-of-56 passing for 323 yards against Furman in the '08 season finale.

Chapple is one of seven returning starters from an offensive unit that ranked 37th in total offense (383.6 ypg) and 20th in scoring offense (31.8). Leander Barney (22 receptions, 209 yards) returns as Chapple's top option in the receiving ranks, and Adam Urbano (304 yards, 7 TD) and Zeke Rozier (135 yards, TD) are back to try to bolster the Eagles' ground game (67th - 136.2 ypg). Chris Teal (207 yards rushing, 74 yards receiving in ‘07) will provide additional firepower after missing the '08 season due to injury.

Hatcher's defense also welcomes back seven starters from a group that struggled to contain its opponents last season. The Eagles gave up 412.4 yards per outing (98th nationally) while allowing 29.6 points per game (87th). Despite strong numbers in sacks (2.4 – 26th) and tackles for loss (7.0 - 22nd), Georgia Southern could never capitalize, resulting in a poor minus-1.55 turnover margin – good for 116th nationally. Gone are SoCon Defensive Player of the Year LB Chris Covington and fellow first-team all-conference DE Dakota Walker, but linebacker Terrione Benefield (57 tackles) will help to offset those losses. It also doesn't hurt that four defensive players (LB Dion Dubose, LB J.B. Shippy, DB Derek Heyden, DB K.R. Snipes) earned All-Freshman Team honors.

Interesting Fact: The Eagles lost three games to top-25 FCS opponents in '08 by a combined four points. No. 17 Elon escaped Statesboro, 22-20, while No. 11 Wofford needed overtime to claim a 38-37 victory a week later. No. 2 Appalachian State rounded out the tough losses with a 37-36 win on Oct. 18. Hatcher's squad also played in four overtime games, posting a 3-1 record in those contests.

Preseason Ranking: Georgia Southern was tabbed No. 24 in the sixth annual preseason FCS Poll released in May, and was not ranked in the 2009 FCS Now Pre-Season Poll released in June.

Key Game: Chattanooga on Oct. 17. Eagles' fans may scoff at the notion that this game carries any major significance, but the fact that it comes during a brutal stretch of the schedule with the potential to jumpstart a late season rally makes this contest one to circle. Georgia Southern travels to No. 21 South Dakota St. on Sept. 12, No. 10 Elon on Sept. 26 and No. 11 Wofford on Oct. 3 before heading to Chapel Hill on Oct. 10. Add in a journey to No. 2 Appalachian State on Oct. 24, and the Eagles will be in desperate need for a home game against an unranked opponent. The Mocs, under the direction of new head coach Russ Huesman, return 16 starters from last season's 1-11 squad.

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5    Albany (N.Y.) 
Sept. 12   @ South Dakota St.
Sept. 19   Western Carolina
Sept. 26   @ Elon
Oct. 3     @ Wofford
Oct. 10    @ North Carolina
Oct. 17    Chattanooga
Oct. 24    @ Appalachian St.
Nov. 7     @ Samford
Nov. 14    Furman
Nov. 21    The Citadel 

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