ATLANTA — There was excitement abounding at Georgia State on Wednesday as the coaches and football players got back on the field for practice.
"We've got a ways to go, but I think everybody was thrilled to be back out there running and playing the game of football," Panthers head coach Shawn Elliott said after wrapping up the first official 2020 practice at Georgia State Stadium.
Coming off its third bowl appearance in the last five years, including two of Elliott's first three years, GSU opens the season on Thursday, Sept. 3, when the Panthers host Murray State at 7:30 p.m. at Georgia State Stadium.
"To put on helmets, to run and catch and be back on the football field, participating in fundamental drills, was really good," Elliott said. "You can tell that we've been off that field for quite a long time, not being able to throw and catch over the summer like we normally would, but it was good to be back out there."
There is competition at every position, but of course, when a team graduates a highly successful starting quarterback like Dan Ellington, that battle takes center stage.
Four freshmen will be competing for the quarterback job: redshirt freshmen Cornelious Brown and Kierston Harvey, both of whom saw limited action last season, as well as redshirt freshman Jamil Muhammad, who sat out last fall, and true freshman Mikele Colasurdo, a December signee who enrolled in January. That quartet got in six practices in March before the shutdown.
"We've got 29 practices until Murray, and we'll probably need all 29 of them to determine who strap it up that first game," Elliott said of the quarterback competition.
Another important focus for Elliott and the Panthers this preseason is leadership.
"We worked in much smaller groups during the summer. With no real team interaction, it's really hard to develop that leadership and gain the respect and attention of everyone," Elliott said. "That's something we really have to watch and see how it develops.
"I told them today, 'Great teams have great leaders.' We've got to see those great leaders rise to the forefront here in the next few weeks. That is as critical as blocking and tackling. We've got to have leadership."
Among the key seniors who can provide leadership are offensive guard Shamarious Gilmore, tight ends Roger Carter and Aubry Payne, noseguard Dontae Wilson and middle linebacker Trajan Stephens-McQueen.