Georgia State’s football season may be over, but their offseason preparations never cease. The Panthers meet up six days a week to workout for the upcoming season, 2016-17. Three days a week are spent inside of the weight room, while the remaining three days are spent on the field running and conditioning.
On the field the players experience wind sprints, agility training and change of direction. This conditioning helps the Panthers build stamina as well as establish a higher level of endurance.
Keith Rucker, junior tight end, compares the offseason training to the same phases experienced during the regular season.
“There’s a lot of things that we do that are specifically for the phases in the season. Like you have the beginning phase that might seem a little hard and a little tiring,” Rucker said. “Then you go through and you have to try to stay healthy and do as much as you can. Then in the very end of the season, like the end of a workout, that’s when you’re pushed the hardest. Who can finish the strongest. So I feel like our workouts go hand and hand with our season.”
After losing Joel Ruiz, redshirt senior tight end, to an injury Rucker filled this position. Rucker finished the season with six touchdown receptions, 39 total receptions and 522 yards.
Individuals may believe the offseason is a period for the players to rest and recover for the upcoming season. In a sense this is true, but it is also a time for players to work harder than they’ve ever worked. To train and push themselves to the edge. The Panthers are fully aware of what they need to improve on.
Chandon Sullivan, sophomore cornerback, recognizes that the offseason is just as important as the regular season.
“The offseason is a chance for players to grow physically, mentally and even emotionally,” Sullivan said. “During the offseason we’re pushed to the limit basically so that when the season hits we’re able to perform. The offseason is actually harder than any game, any practices and that’s how it’s suppose to be.”
Sullivan finished the 2015-16 season with 50 tackles, two interceptions, four and a half tackles for loss and eight pass break ups. The sophomore made great strides during the past season, but has the goal to become a team leader.
“To become more of a leader during the offseason,” Sullivan said. “Coaching the younger guys.”
Football games typically last three and a half to four hours. This makes endurance a key to success, along with skill improvement. The common saying that players are made during the offseason resonates with redshirt Junior, Bobby Baker.
“The offseason is when you put in the most amount of work for the future,” Baker said. “We do so much now so that when games come, it’s easier.”
The Safety transferred from The University of Alabama at Birmingham after its program came to an end. Baker made an impact on Georgia State’s defense immediately upon arrival. Baker doesn’t plan to let up on his work ethic anytime soon, as he has made his goal for the offseason to become the most dominating safety in college football.
Throughout the offseason challenges do occur. Being active six days of the week, with Sundays off, creates a physical strain on the body. Despite the tiredness the players come in contact with, they are still expected to give their all each day. This is when the training becomes demanding.
“The biggest challenge is to bring it everyday,” Sullivan said. “It’s very tiring, a big physical demand. So to come out everyday and give it 100 percent. Trying to lead by example is the hardest part. Trying to compete everyday.”
Another challenge is attempting to keep the team motivated.
“To make sure that guys don’t lose their competitive edge and their competitive factor,” Rucker said. “Because I know it’s a long time out of pads, and we do get our two or three weeks for spring practice, but that comes in a couple of months. So it’s a long time before people put the pads back on so I just hope we can continue to keep our competitive edge.”
The Panthers have no problem pushing each other to their limits or learning how to produce when tired. Considering each other as brothers, this team reflects the definition of a Panther family.
“This is most definitely the closest knit team that I’ve been apart of. Especially the Defensive Backs and defense,” Baker said. “It’s a true brotherhood. A lot of people say that, but we actually treat each other with respect.”
Overall the main focus of the offseason is to get better and create a more sound team. The first step to success in the upcoming season is to win the season opener.
“To put ourselves in the best situation possible to win our first game,” Sullivan said. “Because we lost our season opener last year and we do not want that to happen again. So the main focus is to train and be in the best shape that we can to win our opener and start the season off the right way. Instead of starting off slow like we did last year.”
This optimistic outlook not only provides the Panthers with a clear motive to perform better than they did last year, but it also provides fans with hopes that the team will produce at a higher level.
Georgia State will begin practicing with pads as well as football equipment during spring practice. This practice begins in March-April and is a total of 15 sessions.