Georgia Southern Extra: Finding time to get QBs their reps, beginning with Kyle Vantrease

·7 min read
Georgia Southern's new head football coach Clay Helton (with whistle) leads the first practice of the fall on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022 at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro.
Georgia Southern's new head football coach Clay Helton (with whistle) leads the first practice of the fall on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022 at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro.

STATESBORO — There is no shortage of footballs to share at Georgia Southern football team practices this fall.

There could be a time crunch when sharing reps, however, as there is no shortage of Eagles quarterbacks, either.

To basically double the amount of repetitions for individuals during specific drills, Eagles coaches will divide the skill position players into two groups operating simultaneously at spacious Paulson Stadium.

"Not many teams may do that in the country," new head coach Clay Helton said following the second practice of the fall on Thursday, Aug. 4. "Having the number of skill players that we have, we can break up into two groups and maximize ... "

Instead of 20 reps in a 10-minute period, a player may get 40 reps.

Georgia Southern coach Clay Helton watches as quarterback Kyle Vantrease passes the ball to Ezrah Archie during Eagles' first practice on Aug. 3, 2022, at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro.
Georgia Southern coach Clay Helton watches as quarterback Kyle Vantrease passes the ball to Ezrah Archie during Eagles' first practice on Aug. 3, 2022, at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro.

"All five quarterbacks are throwing to five wideouts," Helton explained. "Rather than one quarterback going through progressions. we're having each kid throw. The guys are getting chemistry with everybody. When it's this number of quality quarterbacks, you really have to be efficient. You have to have a great plan going into each practice so they do get the throws."

Kyle Vantrease, a sixth-year player who transferred to GS in January from the University of Buffalo, has been getting most of the throws with the starters (or "1s"). That's no secret, as that was the case during the spring, and Helton said as much this summer at the Sun Belt Conference Football Media Days.

Vantrease impressed Helton in the first two practices with his "patience and poise," not throwing an interception and taking what the defense gives him. Helton said Vantrease completed 89% of his passes in the first practice, and might have done the same percentage on Day 2.

Quarterback Kyle Vantrease (6), a sixth-year player who transferred to Georgia Southern from Buffalo, looks to pass during the first practice of the fall on Aug. 3, 2022.
Quarterback Kyle Vantrease (6), a sixth-year player who transferred to Georgia Southern from Buffalo, looks to pass during the first practice of the fall on Aug. 3, 2022.

Practices are taped, and coaches are able to collect statistics. There's nothing that eludes their eyes, and certainly there's no taking plays off.

"To be able to watch him really be disciplined in his decision-making has been good to see," the head coach said of his starting QB.

While no starting positions are totally secure, Vantrease continues to work with the starters. The first week featured Connor Cigelske and newcomer Colton FitzGerald getting most of the reps with the 2s.

Georgia Southern quarterback Connor Cigelske (13) passes under pressure from Appalachian State outside linebacker Brendan Harrington on Nov. 27, 2021, at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C.
Georgia Southern quarterback Connor Cigelske (13) passes under pressure from Appalachian State outside linebacker Brendan Harrington on Nov. 27, 2021, at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C.

"Then we have some young kids that are getting the 3s," Helton said. "We're trying to get as many people quality reps to produce tape. As they produce and they show consistency, then their role becomes bigger."

Cigelske is the lone QB on the roster who has played the position for the Eagles. The redshirt sophomore (6-0, 195) played in and started the final two games of the 2021 season.

FitzGerald (6-2, 195) is a redshirt freshman who spent last season at Boise State, entered the transfer portal in April and enrolled at GS in July.

Helton said he's known for a while about FitzGerald, from Santa Clarita, California, as he and offensive coordinator Bryan Ellis have spent time coaching on the West Coast. Helton likes FitzGerald's experience and arm talent.

Georgia Southern quarterback Zak Rozsman, a true freshman, throws during the team's first practice of the fall on Aug. 3 at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro.
Georgia Southern quarterback Zak Rozsman, a true freshman, throws during the team's first practice of the fall on Aug. 3 at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro.

It means that Vantrease, who has this season of eligibility remaining, will have plenty of young players with him in the quarterback room. In addition to Cigelske and FitzGerald, the roster includes true freshman Zak Rozsman, sophomore transfer Richie Lankford (College of San Mateo), redshirt sophomore transfer Kyle Toole (Troy), and injured true freshman David Dallas.

"I've always believed competition brings out the best in you," Helton said. "It's really allowed these kids to be able to compete at a very high level. They have a tremendous example in Kyle Vantrease of what the standard is. They're competing to live up to that standard."

Football practice schedule

The Eagles are scheduled to practice (weather permitting) from about 4-6 p.m. Thursday at Paulson Stadium, and the same time and location on Friday.

The team's first intrasquad scrimmage of the fall is Saturday, Aug. 13, estimated to start at 7 p.m. at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro.

On the following Saturday, Aug. 20, at 10 a.m., the team is commuting for its second scrimmage as part of Savannah Fan Fest at Memorial Stadium.

Head football coach Clay Helton and his staff will be hosting a free Little Eagles Football Clinic after the Preseason Showcase at Memorial Stadium. The clinic includes fun drills for kids ages 6-12 capped off with a pep talk and team photograph. The clinic is expected to start at 11:45 a.m. While the event is free, parents are encouraged to register their kids online at GSEagles.com/LEFC. Check-in will begin at 11 a.m. at Memorial Stadium.

Paulson Stadium, the site of the Georgia Southern football team's Fan Fest on Saturday, Aug. 13 along with the first team scrimmage of the fall.
Paulson Stadium, the site of the Georgia Southern football team's Fan Fest on Saturday, Aug. 13 along with the first team scrimmage of the fall.

More about Fan Fest

The annual Georgia Southern Football Fan Fest returns to Paulson Stadium this Saturday, with gates opening at 6 p.m. and the football team holding an open practice at 7 p.m.. Gates 5, 7 and 8 of the stadium will be the only entrances to Paulson and fans may sit throughout the stadium. No registration is needed for the event.

The tailgate lot will be open for all fans to set up their tents, RVs, grills and flags before the fan festival. Parking is available in the lot next to the construction of the Anthony P. Tippins Family Indoor Practice Facility and fans may enter from Lanier Drive.

Win game tickets

At the halfway point of Saturday's practice, there will be a field-goal contest for all fans to enter to win two tickets to the new Field of Dreams premium area at the season opener Sept. 3 against Morgan State.

Fans can enter into a drawing for a chance to kick a 25-yard field goal. Twenty names will be drawn and will have the chance to kick during the scrimmage. There is no limit to the number of winners, and each selected participant will get one try. Fans must enter the drawing in person on the south concourse by Section G (My First Game location on game days).

As areas continue to get upgraded throughout Paulson for premium seating, fans can view the new Four Topps mesh-back seating with cup holders in Section D.

The Fan Fest is free and open to the public. Parking is also free. Kiosks will be set up inside the stadium for ticketing, donations and general inquiries. Fans may purchase tickets at the event including football season, single-game, and mini-plan tickets, plus volleyball tickets, or purchase them online at GSEagles.com/Tickets.

Fans also can join the Erk Russell Fund. Membership starts at $60 a year or $5 a month online at Give.GSEagles.com.

The 40-Year Football Team

To commemorate the 40th year of modern football at Georgia Southern, the Eagle Football Alumni Association and the department of athletics have partnered for a special project.

Fans will be voting for the 40-Year Team, position by position, over designated days, leading up to the full team announced Sept. 2 — the night before the 2022 season opener against Morgan State in Statesboro.

Fans vote only once per voting period. The poll for the specialists and slotbacks opened 12:01 a.m. ET on Aug. 8 and closes at 11:59 p.m. ET on Aug. 11.

Georgia Southern's Tyler Bass (16) celebrates with Anthony Beck II (98) after kicking a field goal to defeat South Alabama 20-17 in the second overtime of a game Oct. 3, 2019, in Mobile, Ala. Bass, as a former Eagles player (2016-19), is on the ballot for the 40-Year Football Team specialists and slotbacks, with the poll closing at 11:59 p.m. Aug. 11.
Georgia Southern's Tyler Bass (16) celebrates with Anthony Beck II (98) after kicking a field goal to defeat South Alabama 20-17 in the second overtime of a game Oct. 3, 2019, in Mobile, Ala. Bass, as a former Eagles player (2016-19), is on the ballot for the 40-Year Football Team specialists and slotbacks, with the poll closing at 11:59 p.m. Aug. 11.

Other voting periods are Aug. 1-4 (offensive and defensive lines), Aug. 15-18 (wide receivers and defensive backs), Aug. 22-25 (running backs and linebackers) and Aug. 29-Sept. 1 (quarterbacks).

To be eligible, a player had to have finished his eligibility at GS, or have graduated before transferring to another school. All players on the ballot were one of the following:

• On the GS Athletics Hall of Fame ballot; an all-conference (first/second/third team) selection or conference award honoree; an All-American; a member of the GS Athletics Hall of Fame; a national award winner; an NFL player; an NFL draft pick; or has their number retired.

The EFAA approved the initial list and had the discretion to adjust the nominations. Fans will have the vote in determining the actual team.

To view the ballots and vote, go to https://gseagles.com/sb_output.aspx?form=200

For more coverage of Georgia Southern athletics, go to https://www.savannahnow.com/sports/college/georgia-southern/

Nathan Dominitz is the Sports Content Editor of the Savannah Morning News and savannahnow.com. Email him at ndominitz@savannahnow.com. Twitter: @NathanDominitz

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Georgia Southern football team quarterback depth chart runs deep