ATLANTA -- The Georgia State football team opens preseason practice Wednesday, embarking on their second season under head coach Shawn Elliott.
“A lot of people would use the word ‘excited;’ it’s kind of like Christmas for football coaches when you get ready to start practice in the fall – you know it’s for real and it means something," Elliott said Tuesday as he met with the media. "
"Everyone’s gearing to go – that’s the thing about this sport, you do so much work to put into 12 games in a season and it all comes down to those 12 different contests so the buildup is really, really big and our players are excited about it and we are too as coaches.”
The Panthers will take the field for the first time Wednesday at 10 a.m., and then open the season 29 days later, hosting Atlanta-area foe Kennesaw State on Thursday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. at Georgia State Stadium. The game will air on ESPN+.
“But we’re ready to get started, anticipating a good fall camp," Elliott continued. "We have 25 practice opportunities to get ready for our first game vs. Kennesaw State, and we’ve got a lot of preparing to do and a lot of growing up to do to keep getting better as a football team."
Georgia State looks to build on the momentum of last season's strong finish, which produced the program's first winning season (7-5) at the FBS level and first bowl victory, a 27-17 win over Western Kentucky in the AutoNation Cure Bowl.
"I’m looking forward to a good 2018 season," Elliott said. "We’ve got a good nucleus of players that we’ve added to our roster and have guys that are returning as well so it’s going to be a little different look on both sides of the ball for some positions."
Georgia State returns six starters on offense and five on defense, led by preseason All-America receiver Penny Hart, who is No. 1 among all FBS returnees with 2,281 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns.
Hart, the junior from Roswell, Ga., will be on the receiving end of a new quarterback as the Panthers must replace AutoNation Cure Bowl MVP and two-year starter Conner Manning.
Georgia State returns junior Aaron Winchester, Manning's backup the last two years who is competing with junior college transfer Dan Ellington, senior Jaquez Parks and redshirt freshman Jack Walker, while true freshman Swift Lyle joins the mix.
“Well certainly we have to identify our leader. We have to identify our quarterback," Elliott said. "The one who can do it in the classroom – meaning in our meeting space – and do it on the field, that’s the guy that’s going to set himself apart, so we’re looking for that. You need great leadership and a calm and coolness, a confidence from that position, all that should grow in the next 25 opportunities before our first game.”
In that first game, the Panthers will take on 2017 FCS quarterfinalist Kennesaw State.
“Certainly it’s going to be a tough battle," Elliott said. "They’re a very well coached football team, had a great year a year ago, a tough style of option offense coming in for the first game. Their offense, their defense, their special teams, everything about the program is something we have to be on our toes for.
"What I do love about it is the proximity of the two universities, the two football teams. Our players and their players know one another, they’ve had backgrounds in high school – we even have brothers playing against each other so that’s exciting."
Season tickets for Panthers' the six-game home schedule at GSU Stadium begin as low as $100. Single-game tickets range from $20 to $25 per game, while group ticket packages are available for groups of 10 more ranging from $10 to $15 per game.
Fans can purchase tickets online at GeorgiaStateSports.com/TIX or by calling the ticket office at 404-413-4020 (M-F, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.).