Panther Coach Shawn Elliott
Looks to Bounce Back in 2019

By Dave Cohen

Entering the program's 10th season of play, Georgia State Football is looking to bounce-back after going 2-10 in 2018. This came after a 2017 season that saw the Panthers win seven games, including their first bowl game win over Western Kentucky in the AutoNation Cure Bowl.

The Panthers are led by QB Dan Ellington, who passed for 2,119 yards and rushed for 625 yards in his first season at the helm. Georgia State will face a tough test again early on with three of their first four games on the road, including the season-opener in Knoxville vs. Tennessee on August 31. We spoke with head coach Shawn Elliott, who enters his third season leading the Panthers.

There's a lot of excitement surrounding the program after a productive off-season.

After a year like 2018 we had to go in and really push our players. With so many young athletes on the field last year, we pushed them hard in the off-season for strength and conditioning. I thought we had a solid spring practice and heading into fall it looks like we're in good shape and ready to tackle this season.

The fact that so many young players were able to play significant minutes last season will hopefully pay dividends as they head into their sophomore season.

We'll find out if that's the case. Hopefully they took advantage of their playing time and utilized that game experience to become more intelligent about the game and their opponents. As they grow and gain more experience they'll become better as a player.

We saw improvements in both Nick Arbuckle and Conner Manning from their junior to senior seasons. Dan Ellington had a pretty good season last year. What are your thoughts on Dan heading into his senior year?

I think anytime you see a young man come in, whether it be their first year starting, you always see an improvement. I think a tremendous improvement from year one to year two. Dan came in early, so he had an extra spring to kind of get it under his belt, but we anticipate Dan having a very strong year both throwing and running the football. We think his knowledge of the game has certainly improved. He's become a stronger athlete, more explosive from the strength and conditioning aspect, and I think he's really going to have a solid year for us.

The running game put up its best numbers in program history last season with Tra Barnett having a bit of a break-out season. You've also got some young guys like Seth Paige and Destin Coates who played quite a bit as freshman.

We're not short on our running backs with Barnett leading the way. He had a solid year but missed the last game because of an ankle injury. You have Paige and Coates. Coates had a fracture in his foot but he is doing well. Then you have Dawson Hill, who we were able to redshirt. Tucker Gregg is back. He was a freshman walk-on for us and then Darius Stubbs had a great spring for us. We feel like our running backs are very capable of taking care of that running load for us. Whether it's a one back or two back set. Heck, you might see three of them back there at times for a little different look. We feel like we're in solid shape with those guys. We've got a power guy, a speed guy and all the characteristics of all great running backs back there.

And they will be running in behind one of the more experienced offensive lines you've had.

Yes, I think so. Hunter Atkinson, Shamarious Gilmore to the left, Malik Sumter at center, going with Pat Bartlett at guard. We've got to solidify the right tackle position a little bit. We've got to find out who's going to step up and have the opportunity to man that spot. We do have experience. Those are four returning starters right there along that front line and I think, at times, did a pretty good job a year ago but you really gain the most from the most experienced offensive line and we feel like we have that up front.

With regards to the schedule, Georgia State will be tested again early playing three of the first four games on the road, starting August 31 at Tennessee.

When you start on the road three of the first four, you better come and have been prepared during fall camp and be ready to go. Two years ago, we managed it very well and did some good things on the road and we're looking to get off to a good start this season.

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