ATLANTA -- "I'm not doing as well as our basketball coach, Ron Hunter, who just won the Sun Belt Championship, but we've started spring practice so I'm doing pretty doggone well."
Those were the words of Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott as his Panthers opened spring practice Tuesday morning at the GSU Practice Complex.
Georgia State will continue spring drills with workouts on Thursday and Friday mornings but pausing next week for spring break. Drills resume March 25 and continue through the April 13 Spring Game at Georgia State Stadium.
Elliott, who enters his third season at the helm of the GSU program, was quick to point out one of the best things he witnessed in today's first practice.
"We came out here today and the defense generated four turnovers," he said. "That's a big emphasis for us because the turnover margin was not in our favor last year. We talk a lot about taking care of the football offensively and creating those turnovers on defense. We've got to put our hats and hands on them defensively before we can create those turnovers."
Starting quarterback Dan Ellington is as excited as his coach to be back on the field.
"I thought we had a really good offseason. We busted our butts in that weight room, and our strength coaches pushed us to get better," Ellington said. "Now everybody is so excited to get back out here today and get back to playing football,"
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 has been a hard worker from the day he stepped on campus," Elliott said. "Whether it's on the football field, in the weight room or in the classroom, he does whatever you ask of him and he does a great job. He has an opportunity to be a special football player for us."
Including Ellington, the Panthers return 10 of the 11 players who were starting on offense at the end of last season. Although standout receiver Penny Hart is a big loss, Georgia State returns play-making ability at the skill positions, including receivers Cornelius McCoy, Devin Gentry, Diondre Champaigne, Christian Owens and Tamir Jones, along with running backs Tra Barnett, Seth Paige and Destin Coates, plus redshirt freshman Dawson Hill. Senior left tackle Hunter Atkinson and junior left guard Shamarious Gilmore headline the offensive front.
Ellington and his offensive mates are working with a new offensive coordinator this spring in Brad Glenn, who joined the Panther program from Western Carolina and previously worked with Elliott at Appalachian State. Glenn is one of six new assistant coaches on the GSU staff.
"The players have been great. They are hungry and they want to learn, and they've picked up the installation fairly quickly," Glenn said of his transition to Georgia State. "You can't beat experience, and they've all played a lot of snaps.
"I think Dan enjoys the tempo as we are trying to play a little faster than we did last year."