MACON, Ga. — With the start of the 2014 college football season less than three months away — 85 days, to be exact — Georgia State head football coach Trent Miles and senior linebacker Sean Jeppesen represented the Panthers at the annual Pigskin Preview in Macon, Ga.
“I talk about it every day, so it’s natural to me,” Miles said of talking football in June, “but events like this just show how important football is in this state.”
The Pigskin Preview annually brings all the college football programs in the state of Georgia together with media from around the state at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
Miles discussed his team and the upcoming season, noting the Panthers have made progress in every area as he enters his second season at the helm and the program begins its second year in the Sun Belt Conference and the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“I understand the process,” Miles said. “It’s something we’ve done before, and I know it’s going to take time and patience to get this going where we want it to go,” he said.
One area in particular in which Miles will stress improvement is the running game on offense, which should benefit from a rebuilt offensive line featuring three junior college players who made their mark in spring practice in tackles Michael Ivory and Steve Wolgamott and center Taylor Evans.
“We have to be able to run the football, and it all starts up front,” Miles said. We’ve got to be able to push people off the ball. We are bigger and stronger up front, and it will really help if we can keep some contuitity on the offensive line.”
The quarterback competition should be a topic of conversation throughout the summer. Junior Ronnie Bell is the returning starter, but he was edged in the spring by junior college transfer Nick Arbuckle from Pierce (Calif.) College.
“Coming out of spring, Nick Arbuckle is the starter, but Ronnie got better in the spring, too. We will open it back up for competition at the beginning of camp, when we will add Emiere Scaife. We look forward to competition at the position so that hopefully we can perform at a higher level. The completion percentage has to improve.”
Miles noted that most of his team, including newcomers, will report to campus this weekend to begin summer classes next Monday. Unlike in past years, a new NCAA rule allows the coaching staff to have limited contact with players over the summer. Coaches can work with players for eight hours per week for an eight-week period. No football drills or equipment are permitted, so the sessions would be focused on film study and conditioning.
“It’s a very important summer for everyone involved,” he said. “We are looking forward to getting a head start on camp.”
Preseason camp leads to the Panthers’ Aug. 27 season opener, the first FBS football game of the 2014 season.
“We start on Wednesday, Aug. 27 on ESPNU against Abilene Christian,” Miles said. “They moved from Division II up to FCS last year, but that is a winning program with great tradition.”
Jeppesen is one of the Panthers’ senior leaders. After starting at fullback last fall, he moved to linebacker for the final three games of 2013, playing that position for the first time. He continued his transition to defense in spring practice and now enters his final season as GSU’s starting mike linebacker.
The Fortston, Ga., native joked about learning a new position, quipping, “The fullback is really a linebacker on offense anyway.”