The saying goes, “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.” This true in life and with the 2015 Georgia State Panthers’ football team.
In a result oriented sport and country, the Panthers’ 3-6 record can be a bit, deceiving.
The Panthers have lost games this season, to the passerby eyes one may conclude that this is the same old Georgia State Panthers’ football team.
The same team that won one game in the last two seasons prior to this one. The same team that did not have a running back who ran for over 400 yards last season. The same team that just moved to division one level of competition.
Those assumptions would be wrong this season. The Panthers have losses, but those a few of those losses could easily have been wins in favor of the Panthers.
The Panthers have held fourth quarter leads in the last two losses they suffered in games against Arkansas State and Louisiana Lafayette.
The Panthers are on the cusp of making my preseason bold prediction of the Panthers winning six games and reaching a bowl game come true. The team, with a few plays here or there going in the other direction, could very well have four or even five victories now.
There has only been two games this season where the Panthers were outmatched. The first was against the reigning College Football Playoff team, Oregon, who beat the Panthers 61-28 and the second was against Appalachian State where the Panthers suffered a 37-3 loss.
The tiered process
The Panthers have made huge strides and are now competitive every week. The process of building a contender from the ground up can be seen as a tiered process.
- The process includes five tiers. The first one is simply getting the program off the ground, getting practices in, recruiting players, then bringing things together enough to actually play in a competitive game.
- Then the second tier comes as some program cornerstones are set in place. A coaching staff has brought in players that fit their respective systems and schemes.
In this time some program changing players emerge. These players provide a foundation for the next couple years and gives younger players hope of doing special things as a team in the coming years.
- Tier three is where the Panthers are currently. This is the tier where the excitement is rising around the program. Now when teams face the Panthers they know it will be tough 60 minute game.
The cornerstone players are reaching the end of their careers, but the young players around them have watched and learned from their example.
There is now has depth and the backups begin looking as talented as the starters as the recruiting has improved and the programs offseason program has been improved.
- Tier four is soon coming for the Panthers. Tier four is when the results come in. Tier four is where all the losing is paid off and the lid is blown off the pot.
This is where teams win games and start to expect to win every week. The results start to improve and soon fans, players, and coaches begin expecting the ultimate prize.
- Which brings me to tier five. Tier five is when a program learns to become champions. This tier is one that only a few programs reach. The Panthers still have a few years before this point.
But it is not too far from one’s imagination that this may not be as far away as it seems as the team currently sits at 3-6.
Trent Miles, if given the time, will continue to improve the recruiting due to Georgia State being located in a major football talent hub.
The state of Georgia on a yearly basis puts out boatloads of division one football talent.
The evidence of Miles’ recruiting has already begun to show through the cracks as the Panthers’ stars like quarterback Nick Arbuckle, Joseph Peterson, Donovan Harden, Joel Ruiz, Tarris Batiste, and so on and so forth begin to head out of the program and move on to the next steps in their lives.
The Panthers can already see the potential replacements growing up right in front of their eyes this season.
The quarterback position has a potential heir in Emiere Scaife. Scaife is a more imposing quarterback in the pocket than his predecessor Arbuckle as he stands 6-foot-2 inches tall and 218 pounds.
Scaife has only attempted eight passes this season. But I have a feeling that may change in the near future.
The Panthers lost star tight end Joel Ruiz early this season. Junior Keith Rucker is doing a great job taking over the position and has really come into his own as the starter catching 24 passes for 277 yards and five touchdowns, all career highs.
But looking even past Rucker as he has only one season left, the Panthers have another promising tight end in waiting.
Freshman Ari Werts. Werts has seen some meaningful snaps this season due to Rucker battling some injuries as well as Ruiz.
Werts is a lot like Ruiz in that he provides a big athletic target. Werts stands 6-foot-4 inches tall and is already 225 pounds.
At the end of 2015 the Panthers will lose playmaking wide receiver Harden. But there his replacement may very well already be a key part to the Panthers’ offense.
Freshman Penny Hart is already opening eyes around the country as he is leading the Panthers in receiving with 52 receptions and 851 yards receiving.
Hart will only improve at the position and learn the nuances.
These are only three players but the Panthers roster is quickly filling up with young talent that could take them into the fourth tier of building a program.
The next few seasons will be exciting times for the Panthers. The next few weeks will be just as exciting to see if Georgia State can mount a late surge and finish the season strong closing out games. The charge momentum has begun to build already after the Panthers’ 41-19 victory over Texas State. More wins like this one could be on the horizon.