Football: Key Panthers for 2015

Senior Nick Arbuckle

Quarterback 6-1 215

Arbuckle broke a lot of records for the Panthers last season and is now entering his second year at the helm of the offense. Arbuckle enters his second season with a better understanding of the offensive schemes and another full offseason with his offensive teammates to develop the needed chemistry to perform at a high level this season.

Arbuckle also will face a lot of the same opponents from last season and have a better grasp of what to look for in facing those opponents. For the Panthers to compete in 2015, the team must have Arbuckle playing at a high level again at what is considered the most important position in the sport of football.

Senior Donavan Harden

Wide Receiver 5-11 175

Harden also enters his second season at Georgia State as a starter in the offensive system. He has had another full off-season to gel with his quarterback, find his fit in the system, and he also looks to push his production to new heights.

Harden is last season’s leading receiver. Harden had 885 yards with seven touchdowns on 60 catches last season and the panther’s big play threat. Harden’s 14.8 yards per reception last season and his longest play of 2014 was a 68 yard gain.

Harden’s 2015 may have to be delayed a bit as he is dealing with a foot injury that may keep him sidelined for the first bit of the season. Whenever Harden does return to the field, he will be one of the most explosive parts of an explosive offense.

Senior Joseph Peterson

Linebacker 6-0 225

Peterson is the model of consistency at Georgia State, and he will again be the rock in the middle of the panther’s defense. Peterson has been the team’s leading tackler for the last three seasons. The Panthers will count on Peterson to do more of the same on a far deeper defense than he’s had around him in the past with the additions of Alonzo McGee from UAB and junior college transfer Kaleb Ringer.

Junior Michael Ivory

Offensive Tackle 6-5 340

Ivory started the 2014 season as the panther’s starting left tackle protecting the blind side of quarterback Nick Arbuckle. Ivory was sidelined last season in the fifth game of the season and is now returning to the fold in 2015 looking to pick up his development where he left off last season. Ivory flashed tremendous ability in his abbreviated season in 2014 and will be looked to continue and improve helping his dangerous quarterback Arbuckle stay upright and healthy enough to hurt opposing defenses.

Redshirt Sophomore Mackendy Cheridor

Defensive End 6-5 250

The Panthers recorded only 12 total sacks last season. Only one came from a defensive lineman as defensive end Shawayne Lawrence recorded one sack for the season.

The Panthers are undergoing a defensive system change, and some of the moving parts include familiar faces in new roles. One of these faces is Cheridor. Cheridor started four games last season at outside linebacker in the panther’s 3-4 scheme before sidelined with a knee injury and ultimately redshirting in 2014.

Cheridor recorded one sack in those four games. Cheridor will be putting his hand in the dirt this season for the Panthers and moving to the defensive end position. This will allow Cheridor to play more aggressive going forward with less responsibility.

The Panthers will have possibly the team’s best pass rushing threat being turned loose on opposing quarterbacks. Cheridor has the chance to be a game wrecking asset off the edge for the Panthers and having that kind of heat on a team’s passing attack can make life a lot easier for the rest of the defensive unit.

Senior Joel Ruiz

Tight End 6-4 240

Ruiz also is working his way back from a knee injury and looks to be ready for the 2015 season opener against Charlotte.

Ruiz caught 39 passes in 10 games for the Panthers last season. Ruiz has a rare skill set of being a tight end that is a matchup nightmare for linebackers and defensive backs alike.

Ruiz stands 6 foot 4 inches tall and is too big and physical to be covered by smaller defensive backs and too fast for linebackers in space. Ruiz was a high school quarterback, so his football IQ is high.

Ruiz is coming into 2015 looking to play a larger role in the offense after getting the complete grasp of the tight end position and learning more of the nuances of the position. He will also be an attractive prospect in the upcoming NFL Draft as his blend of size and speed have NFL scouts taking notice and looking to potentially add the 6 foot 4 inch tight end’s services to their roster in a league all about matchups, creating many mismatches that NFL coaches covet.