GEORGIA STATE (0-0) VS. TENNESSEE STATE (0-0)
Thursday, Aug. 31, 7 p.m.
Parker H. Petit Field at Georgia State Stadium
THE KICKOFF: Georgia State opens the 2017 season with a brand new head coach walking the sidelines in a brand new facility as the Panthers host Tennessee State in the inaugural game at Parker H. Petit Field at Georgia State Stadium and the debut of Shawn Elliott.
Formerly the co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at South Carolina, Elliott is a coaching veteran with 20 years of experience in winning programs. He spent the last seven seasons with the Gamecocks after 13 years at Appalachian State, his alma mater.
TV: ESPN3. Announcers are Matt Stewart and Wayne Gandy.
RADIO: Georgia State Radio Network, including Atlanta flagship 1340 AM/103.7 FM. Dave Cohen is in his 35th season as the play-by-play voice of Panther athletics. Brandon Leak and Harper LeBel join him from the booth with Sam Crenshaw on the sideline. Free audio stream on GeorgiaStateSports.com and GSU mobile app.
ABOUT GEORGIA STATE: The Panthers welcome back 16 starters, including eight on offense, seven on defense and one specialist.
Offensively, Georgia State returns quarterback Conner Manning, who led the Sun Belt Conference in passing yards per game, and talented pass catchers Penny Hart, the Sun Belt’s leading receiver in 2015, and Todd Boyd return from injuries to boost the receiving corps. The Panthers will look to establish a more productive running game behind an offensive line that returns three starters. Seniors Kyler Neal is the top returning ball-carrier, while Taz Bateman returns from injury to add versatile running threat.
Defensively, the Panthers’ strength is a secondary that features one of the best cornerback tandems in the Sun Belt in senior Chandon Sullivan and junior Jerome Smith. The top play-makers among the front seven are junior outside linebacker Michael Shaw and senior defensive end Mackendy Cheridor. That quartet helped the Panthers lead the Sun Belt in 2016 with 4.9 yards per play allowed.
ABOUT TENNESSEE STATE: Georgia State and Tennessee State are meeting for the first time. The Tigers, an FCS program that plays in the Ohio Valley Conference, are coming off a 7-4 record in 2016 under head coach Rod Reed.
The Tigers’ starting quarterback is former Florida signal caller Treon Harris, who enrolled at TSU last spring. Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott is certainly familiar with Harris, who started for the Gators against Elliott’s South Carolina teams in 2014 and 2015. In 2014, South Carolina downed the Gators 23-20 as Harris rushed for 111 yards but was just 5-for-11 for 60 yards through the air. In 2015, Florida won 24-14 as Harris passed for 256 yards.
BACK FOR MORE: Safety Bryan Williams makes history this season as the first Georgia State Panther to play a sixth season. The Miami, Fla., native began his GSU career in 2012 under head coach Bill Curry. He was granted a sixth season of eligibility after missing almost two full seasons (2013 and 2014) with a back injury.
SEASON OPENERS: For the eighth time in eight seasons of football, Georgia State is opening the season at home on a weekday. This will be the Panthers’ third Thursday opener, along with four Friday openers and one Wednesday. Georgia State is 3-4 in season openers and 4-6 in all non-Saturday games.
WELCOME BACK, PENNY: Penny Hart, the 2015 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-American, played sparingly in just two games before his 2016 season was ended by a broken foot. As a rookie in 2015, Hart LED IN THE SUN BELT with 5.5 receptions and 84.5 receiving yards per game, and he set the Sun Belt freshman record for receiving yards (1,099).
In 2016, Georgia State was the ONLY FBS TEAM that did not allow an offensive play (rushing or passing) of 50 yards or longer all season. The longest pass play allowed by the Panthers covered 37 yards, while the longest run was 46 yards.
PERFECT 10: Georgia State ranks among the national leaders with 10 current team members who have already earned their undergraduate degrees.
"CORNERING" THE MARKET: Perhaps the strongest and deepest position on the Georgia State team is cornerback. Starters Chandon Sullivan and Jerome Smith form one of the top tandems in the Sun Belt and the nation, and backups B.J. Clay and Cedric Stone have performed well when called upon.
Sullivan and Smith have a combined 55 starts between them. The trio of Sullivan, Smith and Clay have 13 career interceptions, including nine last season.
SULLY SHINES ON AND OFF THE FIELD: Senior cornerback Chandon Sullivan has collected accolades for his performance on the field and in the classroom. The two-time All-Sun Belt Conference selection enters his senior season on the Preseason All-Sun Belt first team and the Reese’s Senior Bowl Preseason Watch List.
Sullivan is also an outstanding student, majoring in journalism with a 3.84 grade point average. He has been named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District team the last two seasons and the Sun Belt Conference Commissioner’s List for three straight years.