Panthers’ football preseason is underway

Photo courtesy of Georgia State Athletics.

The preseason is officially underway for Georgia State football.

Georgia State football Media Day marked the beginning of the preseason as head coach Trent Miles and several player representatives spoke to the media at their newly renovated practice facility.

Friday was the first day Miles and his players could finally meet all together because they are not allowed to have any contact through the offseason in accordance with NCAA rules. Saturday evening is the first scheduled practice for the team and everyone will be present.

“It’s a great day. It’s like Christmas to us as coaches,” Miles said with an ear-to-ear grin.

Coach Miles began his session with the media by announcing that linebacker Tarris Batiste had been declared eligible to play in the season earlier in the day. Batiste is a transfer from Indiana State and played under Miles in the 2012 season.

Coach Miles stated he has set goals for his newly acquired team, but he continuously states that his biggest concern is simply winning.

“When I mean win, I’m talking about in all in all aspects. We talk about off the field, learning how compete, learning how to perform at the Division I level and learning how to represent the University and our logo the right way.”

When discussing his history with Indiana State and turning their football program into a losing one into a winning one, Miles always reminds everyone that there is a major difference with taking over at Georgia State.

“What we took over at (Indiana State) was a losing culture, a losing program, they had lost for 20 something years” Miles said. “This just happens to be a new culture, a new program. It not a losing program.”

A three way race is currently taking place for the starting quarterback position on the Panthers’ roster.

2012 season starter Ben McLane, redshirt sophomore Ronnie Bell, and Georgia Military College transfer Clay Chastain are going into the preseason practices hoping to come out as the leading man for the job.

So when will Panther fans know who their starting quarterback is?

“When someone steps up and wins the job,” Miles said. “It could be the week before (the season opener), four days from now, (or) end of the season.”

McLane, Bell, and Chastain were all present to talk to the media Friday and did not shy away from discussing the opening.

“Obviously I want to play,” McLane said. “But Ronnie and Clay have been working hard as well and which ever one of us ends up playing is going to be ready.”

In 2012, McLane threw for 1,592 yards and 10 touchdowns, but threw 11 interceptions as the starter.

Clay Chastain discussed his transition from a junior college football program to a Division I program and described it as “fast” and claims he’s been expected to pick up “more responsibility” on and off the field.

“I feel that all the positions should be open. . . I feel that my shots are just as good as any other guys are,” Chastain said.

Ronnie Bell, who started two games last season, said he has been preparing mentally for the upcoming practices to show he not only can be the starting quarterback, but he can be the leader of the offense as well.

“I like to lead by example on the field. . . I don’t do much talking,” Bell said.

“We’re working for a spot, but it’s all for the team ,” Bell explained. “It’s not a competition.”

Bell completed 34 passed for 552 yards and 3 touchdowns but, like McLane, Bell also had a high number of interceptions at 10.

Change has been a theme throughout the offseason with the arrival of new uniforms, updated facilities, a new conference, and an almost entirely new coaching staff handpicked by Miles.

A new “high powered offense” – as Miles put it- is expected, and everyone including wide receiver Danny Williams is on board with the changes offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski has brought.

“(Jagodzinski) has some things that I’ve never seen before that are absolutely amazing. . . I believe our offense is going to be very, very explosive this year,” Williams said.

Williams was out for the 2012 season with a shoulder injury.

Friday, Williams described his health as “perfect.”

“I’ve been doing 100 percent for about three months now,” Williams said.

Williams is one of the leading wide receivers in Georgia State history. He has had at least one catch in every game he has played in and has accumulated 1,134 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

Thursday, news broke that offensive lineman Grant King would not be starting camp with the Panthers because of an academic issue according to the AJC’s Doug Roberson.

“It’s unfortunate, but the next guy has to just step in and do what they have to do,” King’s fellow lineman Ulrick John said about King’s absence from camp. “We just have to act like he never left.”

Defensive lineman Theo Agnew commented on new defensive coordinator Jesse Minter saying he spoke for the whole defense when he said, “We love the new defense. Its very fast paced, and (Minter) really gets the best out of us.”

Agnew believes he and his fellow lineman are a strongpoint of the defense and their communication with each other this season will be key to succeeding.

“We all complement each other, and when we get things right, the secondary gets things right, and it all just meshes. . . it all starts up front.”

There’s been a lot of change going on around the Georgia State football program, but Theo Agnew assured everyone its not getting in the way of anything.

“We’re running our race. We’re the horse with the blinders on going full speed ahead not really concerned about external things. We’re worried about us as a family, as Panthers.”

The Panthers have three scheduled scrimmages this preseason Aug. 10, 17, and 21.

Then the team will take the field under the Friday night lights of the Georgia Dome for the season opener against the Samford Bulldogs on Aug. 30 at 7 p.m..