ATLANTA--Competition was the theme as first-year head coach Trent Miles put his Georgia State Panthers through their first session of spring practice Wednesday morning at the GSU Practice Complex.
Wednesday's workout kicked off the Panthers first spring under Miles, the first of 15 practices that will culminate with the April 20 Spring Scrimmage, scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Georgia Dome.
"I saw a lot of kids out there who are eager to do a good job," said Miles, hired at Georgia State in December after five seasons at Indiana State. "We are still teaching them our expectations on how to practice with tempo and a sense of urgency, but we have a lot of kids with good attitudes who want to do well. We've got to establish more competition and teach them our schemes and how practice and play the way we expect."
With an entirely new coaching staff in place and the Panthers moving to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and the Sun Belt Conference, every position and every player starts with a clean slate as GSU enters its fourth season of competition. The Panthers return 46 letterwinners.
"We've got to have competition everywhere," Miles said after practice. "No one is guaranteed anything.
"Our goals this spring are to create competition, evaluate what we have, implement our schemes, and get these kids to understand our expectations."
Miles declined to single out any individuals, although he did say, "Defensive line-wise, I think we have some guys who are capable of playing.
"But I'll reserve judgement until we actually start hitting. Until the pads go on and you can actually block and tackle, you can't tell a lot. You can do a lot of things in shorts and look pretty."
Practice number two on Friday will also be in shorts, and the Panthers will be in full gear for the first time Saturday morning.
Top returnees from last fall include junior punter Matt Hubbard, who averaged 43.1 yards per kick while earning second-team all-conference honors in the CAA; senior wide receiver Albert Wilson, the 2012 CAA Special Teams Player of the Year with more than 2,000 career receiving yards and an average of 25.1 yards per kickoff return; and senior left tackle Ulrick John.
Three junior college transfers are participating in spring practice and expected to make an impact. Sophomore quarterback Clay Chastain, from Harrison High School in Powder Springs via Georgia Military College, will compete with sophomore returnees Ben McLane and Ronnie Bell for the starting job. The Panthers also added a pair of transfers from NE Oklahoma A&M in running back Gerald Howse (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), who will try to help fill the shoes of graduated standout Donald Russell, and 6-3, 310-pound defensive tackle George Rogers (Stillwater, Okla.). Another addition to the defensive line is 6-4, 260-pound Nermin Delic, a transfer from Kentucky who sat out last fall.
Miles summed up his first day of practice at Georgia State, "This is the greatest thing in the world, to come out on the field with these kids and work on football. It's fun."
SPRING PRACTICE SCHEDULE:
Mar. 29 (Fri.), 5:25 p.m.
Mar. 30 (Sat.), 10:40 a.m.
Apr. 2 (Tue.), 8:55 a.m.
Apr. 4 (Thu.), 8:55 a.m.
Apr. 5 (Fri.), 5:25 p.m.
Apr. 6 (Sat.), 10:40 a.m.
Apr. 9 (Tue.), 8:55 a.m.
Apr. 11 (Thu.), 8:55 a.m.
Apr. 12 (Fri.), 5:25 p.m.
Apr. 13 (Sat.), 10:40 a.m.
Apr. 16 (Tue.), 8:55 a.m.
Apr. 18 (Thu.), 8:55 a.m.
Apr. 19 (Fri.), 5:25 p.m.
Apr. 20 (Sat.), SPRING SCRIMMAGE, 1 p.m. at Georgia Dome