How will the Panthers improve their game?

Photo by Raven Schley | The Signal

After failing to win a game in 2013, Georgia State football hopes it can improve on several areas of its game from last season that led to its winless campaign.

On the offensive side, coaches stressed the need to improve on running the football. The Panthers’ rushing attack was ranked last in the Sun Belt Conference last season as they barely averaged over 100 yards on the ground.

“We’re going to have some balance. It is essential for us to establish the running game,” Head Coach Trent Miles said in an interview with ESPN’s Drew Fellios and Cole Cubelic at Sun Belt Media Day in New Orleans. “We couldn’t run the ball anymore. We’ll try to spread it around to our receivers and tight ends, but we must establish the running game.”

The team certainly fielded a one-dimensional offense last season due to the presence of standout Wide Receiver Albert Wilson who had over 1,100 receiving yards for Georgia State last season. Sophomore Wideout Robert Davis hopes to fill the void in Wilson’s stead now that he has graduated and is suiting up in the NFL.

“It’s very hard when you’re one-dimensional. Last year we should have called it ‘Albert Wilson-dimensional’,” Miles said at the Panthers’ preseason press conference. “We don’t have that luxury this year and have to establish a running game.”

Georgia State must also improve on its offensive line if it hopes to win any games in 2014. The team allowed 32 sacks for a loss of 100 yards in 2013. The struggles of the offensive line also translated into the woes of the running game last season.

“Hearing that aspect of what happened last year from the coaches everyday can get under your skin a little bit,” said Senior Guard A.J. Kaplan. “But we take pride in running the ball and as an offensive lineman, you want to run the ball to open up the passing lanes.”

Overall, the team has expressed optimism that this year’s offensive line will be better than the one that took the field last season.

“Strength-wise, I think we’re going to be pretty strong upfront on the offensive line,” Miles said. “We’re bigger, and as long as we stay healthy, we’ll have more continuity. I hope our offensive and defensive position groups are all strengths. Right now, I’m counting on everyone being a strength.”

The defensive position groups for the Panthers hope to contribute more this year as well. The team’s seventh-ranked defense in the conference gave up an average of 460 yards.

“Our defense is hungry, enthusiastic and is eager to win games this year,” said Defensive Coordinator Jesse Minter. “No one has higher expectations for our defense this year than me and our players.”

Two defensive players Georgia State hopes will play a vital role for an improved defense are junior Joseph Peterson and sophomore Shawayne Lawrence Peterson. Peterson will assume a leadership role for the defense after leading the team in tackles last year with 103. Lawrence said at the team’s preseason press conference that he wants to be the best lineman in the Sun Belt.

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