ATLANTA--Georgia State opens spring football practice Tuesday as the Panthers hold the first of 15 sessions, culminating with the April 13 Blue-White Spring Game at Georgia State Stadium.
"As a football coach you wish you could coach year round," head coach Shawn Elliott said as he enters his third season. "You have to go out and recruit of course, but when you get out there on the field and you feel that sun and you feel that environment around you on the football field and you're having interaction with your players, that's what it's all about. Every one of our coaches and our players feel the same we, and we're so thrilled to have the opportunity to get back on the field."
GSU will practice Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings this week, then take next week off for spring break before resuming on Monday, March 25.
The Panthers return 53 letterwinners, including eight starters on offense, seven on defense and standout punter-placekicker Brandon Wright.
Spring practice marks the debut of six new assistant coaches on Elliott's staff: offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brad Glenn, offensive line coach Thomas Austin, running backs coach Jimmy Smith, defensive line coach Brad Lawing, cornerbacks coach Aairon Savage and inside linebackers/special teams coach Shiel Wood.
"Starting spring practice, everything is new, and it's an exciting time," Elliott said. "We've hired some great coaches and made some really good additions to both sides of the ball. I'm looking forward to working these guys and seeing them bring out the best in our players. All coach with great energy and enthusiasm."
Headlining the offensive returnees are a trio of All-Sun Belt Conference honorees in senior quarterback Dan Ellington and veteran offensive linemen Hunter Atkinson at left tackle and Shamarious Gilmore at left guard.
In his first year with the program, Ellington led the Panthers in passing and rushing as he gained 2,119 yards through the air and 625 yards on the ground while accounting for 17 touchdowns (12 passing, 5 rushing).
"Dan came in and did a very good job his first year, and we're looking forward to seeing what he does with one more offseason of development," Elliott said.
After Ellington, senior running back Tra Barnett rushed for 551 yards and seven touchdowns, followed by sophomore Seth Paige with 341 yards and four scores. The Panthers, who also add a pair of talented redshirt freshmen running backs in Destin Coates and Dawson Hill, averaged 171.4 yards rushing per game last season, easily the best figure in program history.
The receiving corps graduated all-star Penny Hart, who finished his career as the fourth-leading receiver in Sun Belt history, but talent returns, including sophomore Cornelius McCoy (35 receptions, 495 yards, 1 TD), an honorable mention all-conference selection.
Top returnees on defense include senior defensive end Terry Thomas, an All-Sun Belt honoree as well as a CoSIDA Academic All-District selection, and senior linebacker Ed Curney, who led the team with 81 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss.
Wright, the senior from Atlanta, is one of the nation’s top punters after ranking third in the FBS in both gross and net punting last fall. His average of 48.2 yards per kick set a Sun Belt record. He also handles kickoffs and placements.
Georgia State opens the 2019 season Aug. 31 at Tennessee, while the home opener at Georgia State Stadium is Sept. 7 vs. Furman. Season tickets for Panthers' the six-game home slate begin as low as $60, with discounts available for GSU faculty and staff. 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.).
SPRING PRACTICE DATES (Subject to Change)
Tuesday, March 12
Thursday, March 14
Friday, March 15
Monday, March 25
Tuesday, March 26
Thursday, March 28
Friday, March 29
Monday, April 1
Tuesday, April 2
Thursday, April 4
Friday, April 5
Monday, April 8
Wednesday, April 10
Friday, April 12
Saturday, April 13 - SPRING GAME (Time TBA)
Practices (closed to the public) are held at 9 a.m. at the GSU Practice Complex (188 Martin Luther King Jr., Drive, Atlanta, GA 30315)