Courtesy of AJC.com:
Greenville, S.C. — Georgia Southern coach Chris Hatcher said a smaller school has two options when playing a nationally recognized school from a major conference: “gimmick things up” and try to trick your way through or run “base stuff” and try to get better.
Hatcher, whose team faces such a challenge in its Aug. 30 opener against Georgia, hasn’t made that decision. And while Hatcher — who enjoys throwing a little razzle-dazzle in the gameplan — isn’t likely to go crazy, he’ll do whatever gives his team the best chance to compete.
“When we load up the busses on the 29th and when toe meets leather on the 30th, we’re going to expect to win the game,” Hatcher said at the Southern Conference’s preseason meetings. “If we don’t think we’re going to win, there’s no need to play the game.
“If I don’t believe we can win, you won’t see me on the sideline. Now, it’s not the 30th yet, but I plan to be there. You always play to win and that’s how we’re approaching it.”
The idea might be more plausible under different circumstances. Georgia is expected to be a top-five team, while Georgia Southern has been picked by the coaches to finish fourth in the Southern Conference.
“It’s a daunting task when you play up a level,” Hatcher said. “And when you play a team like Georgia it’s even more daunting. And when half of your team are freshmen (27 true freshman, 25 redshirt freshmen) it’s even more daunting.”
Daunting? Certainly. Exciting? Absolutely, say two of the team’s seniors.
“It’s a great source of motivation,” said senior defensive back Chris Covington. “We want to be the best team in the country and what better way can you do that than by playing the best team in the country.”
Dio Herrera, a senior offensive lineman, said, “Opening up against one of the best teams in the country will set the tone for the rest of the season. We’ll see the best athletes, hear the loudest crowd we’ll hear all year. I think it’s good that it’s the first game.”
Hatcher deflected the notion that Georgia Southern could accomplish what conference brethren Appalachian State did a year ago when it defeated Michigan. Appalachian State was coming off a national championship — and wound up repeating — and had the sort of experience and speed needed to compete at a higher level. Georgia Southern will start with a new quarterback, as well as a new set of backs and linemen.
“We’re building,” Hatcher said. “We’re working our way up.”
Georgia Southern had four first-team selections on the preseason all-conference team: defensive lineman Larry Beard, defensive backs Carson Hill and Covington, and kicker Jesse Hartley. Players will report on July 30 and begin practice on Aug. 1.