Third in a series about spring football across the Football Championship Subdivision.
By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It would seem Georgia Southern's chief concern is getting over the hump of three straight losses in the FCS national semifinals.
Hey, there's too much for the Eagles to first be worried about in the Southern Conference.
Coach Jeff Monken might have the most successful SoCon program right now, but the margin for error has gotten a little smaller across the Land of the Triple Option.
Up top, Appalachian State and Wofford have as many SoCon titles - two - as GSU during Monken's first three seasons.
And right below, Chattanooga, The Citadel and Samford are knocking at the door of title contention. In fact, The Citadel beat both Appalachian State and Georgia Southern last season.
No FCS news has been bigger in the offseason than Appalachian State not bringing back coach Jerry Moore after 24 seasons. His successor, Scott Satterfield, just wants to live up to his Twitter handle: @winthegame.
Don't overlook what Georgia Southern lost on defense, including nose tackle Brent Russell, linebacker and leading tackler John Stevenson and NFL-bound safety J.J. Wilcox.
Life after Eric Breitenstein isn't all bad for Wofford despite the loss of his 5,730 rushing yards and 65 touchdowns in his career. The Terriers have depth in their triple option, and Donovan Johnson has rushed for 1,793 yards in his first three seasons.
Fifth-year coach Russ Huesman faces a lot of pressure to get Chattanooga into the FCS playoffs. He has the SoCon's best defense with the return of nine starters, including five coming off all-conference seasons: defensive end Davis Tull, the co-defensive player of the year; linebacker Wes Dothard; defensive tackle Derrick Lott; safety D.J. Key; and cornerback Kadeem Wise
There was a drop-off after last year's top six teams, which all finished within one game of each other, to Furman, Elon and Western Carolina. It doesn't seem any of the bottom three is ready for a big step.
OH, YES, THEM AGAIN
Had Georgia Southern gotten past the national semifinals with one more game, quarterback Jerick McKinnon (1,817 yards) might have reached the 2,000-yard mark.
The Citadel coaches are salivating over a full season out of 2011 team MVP Derek Douglas, the defensive tackle who missed time last season because of a torn ACL.
Samford's All-American safety Jaquiski Tartt was a terrific playmaker last season. He may have to do even more this season considering the Tigers' losses on the defensive line and at linebacker.
Samford's Fabian Truss finished third in the FCS with 179.8 all-purpose yards per game. He's a threat as a rusher, pass catcher and kickoff returner.
Furman third-year coach Bruce Fowler has been trying to restock the young talent in his program. He has a good one in sophomore linebacker Carl Rider.
Elon is desperate to replace the production of All-America wide receiver Aaron Mellette. While Kierre Brown is the top returning receiver, the Phoenix hope to get a lot more out of senior Rasaun Rorie.
There are not a lot of rushing yards to go around with McKinnon and fullback Dominique Swope returning at Georgia Southern, but bruiser Lanard Govan is anxious to get some.
Of course, for Elon it starts with the quarterback getting the ball to the receivers, and junior Mike Quinn, redshirt freshman John Loughery and junior college transfer Trevor Vassey each hopes to win the starting spot.
The Citadel is still reeling from the loss of All-America center Mike Sellers, reportedly for violating the school's honor code. Sam Frye was the backup as a true freshman last season.
It will be hard for Appalachian State to replace running back Steven Miller. It's pivotal that redshirt freshman Tysean Holloway, sophomore Ricky Fergerson or Utah transfer Eric Davidson solidify the position and take pressure off quarterback Jamal Jackson.
On Western Carolina's exceptionally young squad, quarterback Troy Mitchell took over the starting role as a true freshman. Eddie Sullivan, who will be a redshirt sophomore this season, wants the job back.
SPRING PRACTICE DATES
Appalachian State: March 22-April 20
Chattanooga: March 22-April 20
The Citadel: Feb. 9-March 9
Elon: April 4-May 3
Furman: March 11-April 6
Georgia Southern: March 13-April 13
Samford: March 13-April 19
Western Carolina: March 13-April 20
Wofford: March 4-27
*Photo Courtesy of Furman Athletics