Even with the COVID-19 Delta Variant, expectations are high as Georgia State football prepares to fill Center Parc Stadium at total capacity for the first time in 17 months. Head coach Shawn Elliott illustrated the new health and safety protocols in place, less than two weeks away from their season opener against the Army Black Knights, with a noontime kickoff on ESPNU.
“We still have our protocols in place to keep our players safe,” Elliott said. “The vaccinated players are not required to do the testing, and the unvaccinated players are certainly required…Pretty similar protocols in place, COVID-19 is what you make of it, and we try to do everything by the book.”
Elliott returns all offensive starters and nine defensive this year, and hopes to follow up an exceptional 2020 season where they ranked seventh in total sacks and tied for tenth in forced turnovers.
“When you look at our returning starters and our returning production offensively and defensively, you can see exactly where we are,” Elliott said.
However, good leadership on and off the field is only one of the stepping stools to a successful season. Getting players to buy into the program, the training, the coaching staff and most importantly, themselves to win and bowl games is another crucial piece.
“We’ve got great leadership from the [talented] guys who are seniors this year. We’ve got an abundance of leadership, so that means good quality practices, which means a lot of focus and energy,” Elliott said.
“When you have that [many] returning, it’s a little bit easier on the coaching. These players have been through so much, and they know what to expect and how to conduct themselves.”
Not only do the seniors and fifth-year “super seniors” bring leadership, but they also bring an exciting play to the field alongside other returning players. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Cornelious Brown IV is another returner this year and is looking forward to an outstanding season once more.
“We have a veteran football team with a lot of experience, and that bodes well for playing tough contests early. I feel like our team will handle it and handle it well,” Elliott added.
Brown, a dual-threat quarterback, threw for nearly 2,300 yards and 17 touchdowns while also running for another 301 yards and seven touchdowns in 2020. His resume may be short but is distinct across Sun Belt Conference quarterbacks.
For quarterbacks to play good football, they must have an excellent offensive line who puts their bodies on the line every play to protect them. Brown will be continuing behind a veteran line that will be returning all five of its starters. One of those starters being the four-time all Sun Belt player Shamarious Gilmore.
As the Panthers look to kick off the season with a win against the Army, their non-conference schedule also sets them up to challenge against good teams.
“I think those first four games are all really tough,” Elliott said. “If you’re going to play tough teams, you’ve got to be tough yourself. When you [play against] Army, North Carolina, Charlotte and Auburn, you’ve got to be ready to play,” Elliott said.
Elliott and the Panthers will do just that as they open their season matching up with the Black Knights, followed by the Tar Heels, 49ers and Tigers in their first four weeks.