Georgia State Makes FBS Debut Against Samford


Sep 8, 2012; Knoxville, TN, USA; Georgia State Panthers quarterback Ben McLane (16) passes the ball against the Tennessee Volunteers during the first quarter at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off of a season filled with mostly negative memories, the Georgia State Panthers are ready to start fresh with a new division, conference and coaching staff.

Trent Miles and his staff will make their GSU debut Friday night in the Dome against the Samford Bulldogs (7-4, 5-3 SoCon). Miles will be tasked with turning around a program that went 1-10 last year and is 10-23 after three seasons of play. Miles is no stranger to turnarounds, as he successfully navigated a nearly defunct Indiana State team to a national ranking and put them in a position to be successful at the FCS level for years to come.

GSU is hoping for similar results as it joins the world of FBS football and the Sun Belt Conference. While the Panthers are not bowl eligible until next year, Miles would obviously like to grab as many wins as he can for the young program.

And while he acknowledges the struggles facing the program, he is also likes the progress he has seen.

“I think we are ahead of where we thought we would be, but we are not where we want to be,” he said. “We’ll never be where we want to be until we win a Sun Belt championship. There’s a lot of potential in these young men, and we see a lot of good football ahead of them.”

Samford will not be a pushover by any means, either. They are quarterbacked by sixth-year senior Andy Summerlin. Summerlin threw for 2269 yards and 10 scores last year.

He has a dangerous weapon in his backfield as well in Fabian Truss who earned a spot on a few preseason All-American lists after rushing for 1063 yards and 11 scores last season.

Samford will be without their leader on the sidelines Friday night however, as former Heisman Trophy winner and Head Coach Pat Sullivan will be out recovering from back surgery.

Miles has not released much about what you can expect to see from the Panthers Friday night and beyond other than his staff will look to establish a run game early and go with the hot hand at every position on the field. That includes freshmen if Miles believes they can contribute to a win.

He has also been reluctant to naming a starting quarterback, saying that it will not be Kelton Hill, a QB turned wideout, or speedy wideout Albert Wilson.

The Panthers relied heavily on redshirt sophomore Ben McLane last season, but also rotated in another redshirt sophomore, Ronnie Bell, from time to time. And with JUCO transfer Clay Chastain in the mix with two years of eligibility, the competition is sure to be a focal point all year.

McLane compiled 1592 yards and 10 scores last year in 10 games, with Bell throwing for 522 yards and three scores. One thing both players will have to improve on is their turnovers. McLane had 11 interceptions in 274 attempts while Bell had 10 in 67 attempts.

The game kicks off at 7 p.m. in the Georgia Dome and can be seen on ESPN3 and heard on 1340 The Fan 3 in the Atlanta area.