NEW ORLEANS — As the Sun Belt Conference held its annual Football Media Day Tuesday in New Orleans, Georgia State head coach Trent Miles discussed the Panthers’ progress in their second year in the conference.
Georgia State will be the first FBS team to kick off the 2014 season when the Panthers host Abilene Christian on Wednesday, Aug. 27, just 36 days from now. The game kicks off at 7 p.m. at the Georgia Dome and will be nationally televised on ESPNU.
“Our kids have worked extremely hard in the offseason and done a great job in the classroom, and our coaches have done a great job recruiting,” Miles told the media at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. “Now it’s time to get on the field and try to be competitive in the conference.
“We are older, we are bigger, stronger, faster, and we’ve added in some recruits who will contribute,” he continued. “Our players can take the lessons that they learned in terms of how to compete in this conference and hopefully move to the next level of learning how to compete to win. It’s a process, but it’s not a fast process. If you build a house too fast, it’s going to fall down. You have to build it right, and that takes time.”
UL Lafayette was the unanimous favorite among the coaches to win the conference.
“They have a great program, great coaches, a great environment to play in, and let’s not forget, they have great players. That’s what is most important. They are the class of the conference right now, along with Arkansas State, and that’s where we are trying to get to.”
Miles was asked if he had more of a comfort level facing the Sun Belt teams for the second time around.
“I take comfort knowing that our kids are getting better every day,” he said. “We feel good about what we are building. We will start winning football games, it’s just a matter of when.”
Miles was joined in New Orleans by Joseph Peterson, the junior linebacker, and sophomore tight end Keith Rucker.
Miles called Peterson, who represents Georgia State on the preseason All-Sun Belt team, “the quarterback of the defense,” and “the old man on the defense,” even though he is still a junior. The Panthers’ top tackler the last two years, Peterson is the leader of a defensive unit that enters camp with just one senior–linebacker Sean Jeppesen–among its projected starters.
Speaking of youth, Rucker was among the 15 true freshmen who saw action for the Panthers last year, and after graduating 27 seniors, Georgia State is likely to again rely on contributions from its freshman class. Rucker and Peterson were asked which freshmen had caught their eye in workouts this summer; on offense, Rucker mentioned running back Krysten Hammen, and on defense, Peterson noted cornerback Chandon Sullivan.
While taking part in the Sun Belt Social Suite, Peterson and Rucker answered a series of light-hearted, “rapid fire” questions. When asked if they preferred “Lebron or Jordan,” Peterson answered Lebron. Rucker, even though he is an Ohio native, chose Jordan because the two share the same birthday, Feb. 17.
Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson also addressed the media, and in his remarks, he highlighted the league’s expanded partnership with ESPN. Every Sun Belt Conference game will air on one of the ESPN platforms, which include ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews and ESPN3.
After it’s season-opening exposure on ESPNU, Georgia State will appear on ESPN3 in weeks two and three against league newcomer New Mexico State and Air Force, respectively. Additional exposures will be announced 12 days before each game.