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Zeke Rozier back to help the GSU Eagles
Zeke Rozier made a grand entrance to the Georgia Southern football team. Maybe the best ever.
The Eagles were struggling during the 2007 season opener against lowly West Georgia when they decided to hand the ball to highly regarded running back from Bleckley County.
Rozier went 41 yards for a touchdown on that initial carry and scored another touchdown later in the game to lead Southern to a victory.
The next week, he started against Coastal Carolina. It seemed like the beginning of four years of stardom.
But Rozier suffered a left knee injury against the Chanticleers, starting a slide filled with personal problems and more injuries.
Last season, after coming into camp as the team’s No. 1 fullback, he injured his right knee and missed the entire season.
“It’s been a while since I’ve taken some snaps so every now and then (the right knee) goes to aching, but as far as progressing, I think it’s going pretty good,” Rozier said.
That’s good news for the Eagles, who can only dream of a healthy Rozier backing up 1,000-yard rusher Robert Brown at fullback. The position takes a pounding in the triple-option offense, and last season the team used contributions from three different fullbacks to make it through a season which included four playoff games.
GSU hopes to be playing just as long, if not longer, this season.
Rozier scored on a short run during the team’s first scrimmage Saturday.
“(Rozier’s) getting adjusted, getting reacclimated to the schemes,” GSU coach Jeff Monken said. “The basic stuff, I think, is second-nature to him. But he hasn’t had any reps since (last season’s) preseason camp so he’s got to knock the rust off.”
One final shot
Rozier ran for 2,097 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior at Bleckley County High School. Savannah high school football followers gained a preview of Rozier’s abilities after he ran for a school-record 297 yards and four touchdowns during a 26-7 win over Savannah Christian in the 2006 Class A state playoffs.
Rozier was a prized catch in coach Chris Hatcher’s first recruiting class in 2007. And he looked like a steal for a Football Championship Subdivision program after 1½ games.
But since the Coastal Carolina injury, Rozier has just 49 carries and 169 rushing yards along with 15 catches for 72 yards during his career.
Last season, Rozier looked like the heir to the fullback position in Monken’s triple option. But on a rare screen pass, Rozier’s planted knee was hit.
“When it first happened, I was thinking I’d just do something else — help with student coaching, help with film so I’d still be around the team,” Rozier said. “I talked to coach Monken, and he told me maybe it would be best to stick with it. I got over (a knee injury) before, I could get over it again. … I feel like I’m a little slower right now because I put on about 10 pounds.”
Rozier might not be 100 percent, but the Eagles know his potential. And he might be able to help a team that just needs an extra push.
“Zeke’s coming to work each day, and he’s a senior showing great leadership,” GSU quarterback Jaybo Shaw said. “We’re just glad he’s back there. That’s added depth, and he’s a very good football player so that’s an added plus for our backfield.”
This and that
Reserve quarterback Ezayi Youyoute and running back Seon Jones scored touchdowns along with Rozier during Saturday’s two-hour scrimmage. The Eagles ran approximately 90 plays — 30 for the first, second and third strings, plus reps for special teams.
Monken held out Shaw just to give him some rest, spreading extra reps for backup quarterbacks Jerick McKinnon and Youyoute.
“Probably like every scrimmage, there was some good and some bad and a lot in between,” Monken said. “We have to turn the in-betweens into good, and then we’ll have a lot more good than we have bad.
“I’m encouraged. It wasn’t great. We’ll certainly have to play a lot better when we play Samford (in the Sept. 3 season opener) if we’re going to have a chance to win.” …
Freshman offensive lineman Garrett Brewer left the field in an ambulance about midway through the scrimmage. Monken said Brewer has allergies and was struggling to breathe so as a precaution he was taken to the hospital. Less than an hour after practice, Monken said Brewer was released.
Follow Donald Heath, Savannah Morning News