Brookwood graduate Ben McLane (16) hopes to lead Georgia State football into success as they debut in the Sun Belt Conference this fall. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
Being just four years old, Georgia State’s football program is hardly a condemned piece of property.
The way head coach Trent Miles, who heads into his first season following Bill Curry’s retirement three seasons after he built the program from nothing, sees it, the program is more of a fixer-upper.
“It’s like having a chance to build your own home,” Miles said as he addressed the Sun Belt Conference’s media for the first time since GSU officially joined the conference three weeks ago during the SBC’s Media Day at the Superdome in New Orleans on Monday.
“You want to see the foundation poured, pick the floors and the cabinets that you want. Winning is never easy, but when you take over something and do it from scratch, it’s more fulfilling.
“When you’re building a program, the first thing you have to do is teach them to compete. That’s the phase that we’re in. Then you teach them how to compete to win, and then how to compete to win championships.”
Apparently, Miles’ Sun Belt Conference peers sees GSU being still deep in the first states as it kicks off its fourth season, and debut season in the SBC, this fall.
The Panthers (1-10 overall, 1-7 in the FCS Colonial Athletic Assocation last year), who open the season against FCS foe Samford on Aug. 30 at the Georgia Dome, were picked to finish last in the preseason poll of the SBC’s coaches, and didn’t place a single player on the preseason All-Conference team.
But that doesn’t bother Miles, who says he is more concerned with his own expectations, as vwell as those of his staff and the Panther players, rather than those of outsiders.
“Our expectation for our football team is to go out and compete at a high level for every game we play,” Miles said. “We want to win and we expect to win, but this is a program that has only been playing football for three years. Most schools that make this jump have been established powers; we’ve played football for three seasons. This is a process and it’s going to take some time. Our young men are going to go out and play hard every game with the expectation of winning.
“We have a bunch of young men who want to do well, and they are learning how to do it at the next level. They are showing a sense of urgency to get things done.”
Those players who let that sense of urgency lag even for a moment are in for a quick reminder of the perils of doing so by Miles or one of his assistants, according to senior Ulrick John.
“Coach Miles is a very intense coach, and he is always making sure that we are doing things as close to perfect as possible,” said John, who is set to start at left tackle for the Panthers this season. “He’s tough on us, but that’s what we want.”
The Panthers begin preseason practice Aug. 3 in preparation for the season opener against Samford, and several former Gwinnett high school standouts have a chance to make significant contributions this season, including quarterback Ben McLane (Brookwood), as well as other returning starters in right guard Harrison Clottey (Grayson) and defensive end John Kelly (Norcross).