ATLANTA — If there is strength in numbers, Georgia State’s running back position is in good shape as the Panthers continue their preparations for the 2014 season.
Tuesday was Day 5 of preseason camp for the Panthers, who open the season Aug. 27 vs. Abilene Christian (7 p.m. at Georgia Dome).
Georgia State and running backs coach Brock Lough are working with up to six ball-carriers.
“I’ve got a really good group,” said Lough, who played fullback for GSU head coach Trent Miles at Indiana State. “We’ve got a couple of older guys, and we’ve got some younger guys, including some young ones who played last year. A lot of guys are getting a lot of reps with no defined starter yet.”
The Panthers’ top returning rusher is sophomore Jonathan Jean-Bart, who rushed for 269 yards and one touchdown in nine games last fall. Georgia State also used sophomore Kyler Neal and seniors Gerald Howse and Duvall Smith at various times last season. True freshman Krysten Hammon from Hitchcock, Texas, should also earn playing time.
The group of running backs is big in numbers and big in stature, too.
“We have big backs with [Gerald] Howse, Duvall [Smith] and Kyler [Neal],” Lough said of his three backs over 215 pounds. “But we’ve got the scatbacks, too — ‘Hambone’ [Krysten Hammon] and JJB [Jonathan Jean-Bart]. And ‘Crock’ [Dontavis Crocker] will do some good things for us.”
Howse, the senior from Murfreesboro, Tenn., battled an ankle injury last season, but he is healthy now and has added some size to his 6-2 frame.
“I’m about 225 now,” he said. “I like the way I run at this weight. I want to run over you and get the tough yards.
Coach Lough is working with me on getting my pads down and running over my toes.”
Lough is pleased with what he has seen from Howse this preseason.
“Howse is doing a lot of good things,” Lough said. “He is always paying attention, always in the right place at the right time. His feet have gotten much better, and he’s is learning how to use his size to his advantage.”
NOTING THE PANTHERS …
“They moved around pretty good. There were some good things on defense, some good things on offense. We still have plenty of things we need to work on, but overall it was a good day,” head coach Trent Miles said after Tuesday’s workout, the final day of the NCAA-mandated five-day acclimatization period. The Panthers will hold their first “two-a-day” Wednesday, with practices at 9:45 a.m. and 6:45 p.m.
“In the morning, we’ll work on offense and defense, and in the evening it’s all special teams,” Miles said. “The morning will be shells (helmets and shoulder pads) and the evening will be non-padded.”
Speaking of special teams, the Panthers return standout punter Matt Hubbard (career average of 42.3 yards per kick) and starting place-kicker Wil Lutz (12-of-19 FG and 43-of-44 PAT in his career) but are breaking in a new long-snaper, where sophomore Justin Forrister and redshirt freshman Daniel Zeigler look to replace four-year starter Scotty McQueen.
Former Panther wide receiver and return specialist Albert Wilson continues to make a name for himself as undrafted free agent in camp with the Kansas City Chiefs. Read this update from chiefsspin.com.