ATLANTA — It was a dreary day, weather-wise, in downtown Atlanta, but the action on the Georgia State football practice field was anything but. The Panthers opened up fall camp on Friday morning with an up-tempo session that second-year head coach Trent Miles proclaimed to be a positive beginning.
“They look like they’ve been together all summer,” Miles said. “They look faster and they look better.
“There are still a lot of things we have to work on, but the effort was there, the flying around is there, and the conditioning is there. So it’s something really good to start with.”
Miles stressed speed and tempo in his post-practice comments.
“The tempo was really good. We ran 96 team plays in 40 minutes, and that’s a really good tempo for us,” Miles said. “We’ve got some guys who can run. On both sides of the ball, defense and offense, we can move.”
First-year wide receivers coach Tim Lappano, who most recently coached with the Detroit Lions and all-pro Calvin Johnson, works with a Panther receiving corps that features three true freshmen who could make an impact in Tevish Clark, Maaseiah Francis and Glenn Smith. Some of his teachings showed in the seven-on-seven drill that produced a couple highlight plays from the wide receiver positon.
Sophomore tight end Keith Rucker touched on how the team’s winter and summer workouts improved today’s practice.
“All through the offseason, the guys have been interacting more,” Rucker said. “We’re lifting as hard as we can and we’re working as hard as we can and we’re trying to make sure we achieve something big this year.”
Rucker is the returning starter at tight end after catching 14 passes for 232 yards and one touchdown as a true freshman. For much of last season, he was the only healthy tight end, but the position’s depth is greatly improved with the addition of junior Joel Ruiz, who sat out last season as a transfer, and redshirt freshman Bill Teknipp, who returns from a knee injury.
The defense is benefitting from the leadership of senior linebacker Sean Jeppesen, who was mostly happy with the performance of the front seven today. Jeppesen and junior Joseph Peterson man the inside linebacker positions, but the Panthers will look to younger players to add depth behind those two veterans.
“It was a great first day. We just need to clean up a few things, but all-in-all, it was a good practice,” Jeppesen said. “Malik [Ricks], the freshman, he did great today. Kight Dallas, and Jameel Spencer all stepped up.”
The Panthers open the season in less than four weeks as Georgia State hosts Abilene Christian Aug. 27 at the Georgia Dome in the first FBS game in the nation.
Preseason practice continues with a 9:45 a.m. workout Saturday morning.