What You Need to Know:
* The Georgia State football team wrapped up its first week of preseason drills with a Saturday morning workout.
* After taking Sunday off, the Panthers will practice in full pads for the first time Monday morning.
* GSU opens the season Thursday, Aug. 31 vs. Tennessee State in the inaugural game at Georgia State Stadium.


ATLANTA -- The Georgia State football team wrapped up its first week of preseason drills with a Saturday morning workout, and after taking Sunday off, the Panthers will practice in full pads for the first time Monday morning.

Shawn Elliott, the Panthers' first-year head coach, was pleased with the first week of practice as he looks to establish an identity for his squad.

"The No. 1 thing is we've got to play with a relentless passion and pursuit of excellence," Elliott said. "These players have to really understand that they can push themselves even further than they think. We're trying to do that as coaches.

"I've always thought that if you practice physical, the game is going to be simple," he continued. "I don't know how it's been on the past, but I can tell you, when they take the field Aug. 31, our physicality will have already been tested. Our camp is tough. These are tough, physical practices. We are teaching fundamentals, and it's not half-speed."

Georgia State is working toward its Aug. 31 season opener, when the Panthers host Tennessee State at 7 p.m. in the inaugural game at Georgia State Stadium.

"I feel like we've got some pieces in place and the skill set to be successful, but we've got to be able to play hard down after down after down," Elliott said. "So many times in the past, they've held a lead late or come close, and we've got to teach them how to fight through and finish strong in the fourth quarter."

Among the pieces that Elliott has to work with is a secondary that features two of the top cornerbacks in the Sun Belt Conference in senior Chandon Sullivan and junior Jerome Smith.

Sullivan is the Panthers' top returnee on defense as a two-time All-Sun Belt Conference selection as well as a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selection. He is GSU's career leader with six interceptions, along with 136 tackles, 13 pass breakups, six tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and one blocked kick.

Smith has four career interceptions and 12 pass breakups, According to PFF College Football, his passer rating when targeted was lowest among all returning Sun Belt cornerbacks and No. 3 among all FBS corners.

Cornerbacks coach Sam Shade was an accomplished defensive back himself, playing safety on Alabama's 1992 national championship team and then in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins.

"I get to coach a really good group of student-athletes," Shade said. "Not only have Chandon Sullivan and Jerome Smith been starters in the Sun Belt Conference for multiple years, but they are both 3.5-students or better."

Add backups B.J. Clay, a senior who has already earned his degree, and sophomore Cedric Stone, and the cornerback position may be the most talented on the GSU squad.

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