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McKinnon leads Georgia Southern Blue team to win
It wouldn’t surprise Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken if quarterbacks Ezayi Youyoute and Jerick McKinnon are in the huddle together for the Eagles’ first snap of the 2012 season against Jacksonville on Sept 1.
“And whoever is under center is our starting quarterback,” Monken said.
Not much happened Saturday to speed up Monken’s decision at GSU’s Blue-White intrasquad spring game.
McKinnon ran for a 20-yard touchdown and had a 75-yard scoring toss to B.J. Johnson to lead the Blue to a 16-6 victory over the White before about 2,500 fans at Paulson Stadium.
The quarterbacks looked like they were in a photo finish following 15 spring practices. Each looked slippery in the open field. Each made good reads to distribute pitches in the triple-option offense.
“I couldn’t tell you who’s (the starting) quarterback,” Monken said.
Youyoute backed up Jaybo Shaw last season. McKinnon was second in command behind Shaw in 2010.
But Shaw finished his eligibility last season, and a team with consecutive Final Four appearances in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs is looking for a signal caller.
“Right now, I believe we’re in a good spot,” Youyoute said.
A pristine day provided the perfect setting to watch GSU’s future. The offense amassed 585 yards in 104 plays, and a defense that was torched for eight touchdowns in the team’s first scrimmage only two weeks ago, allowed only three touchdowns Saturday.
Several encouraging subplots developed. Red-shirt freshman fullback Seon Jones led all ballcarriers with 95 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown run that gave the White a 6-3 lead early in the second quarter.
Jones sat out last season when NCAA clearinghouse initially didn’t clear his on-line English class from Buford High.
Jones ran for 1,204 yards and 13 touchdowns at Buford in 2010 and teamed with Dominique Swope to win a Class AA state title.
“I couldn’t wait to get on the field,” said Jones about Saturday’s action. “I just followed my offensive line into the end zone.”
Another freshman who did not see time last season came up big. Johnson, a 6-foot, 190-pound wide receiver, had two catches for 89 yards, including a touchdown.
The Woodruff, S.C., resident caught 80 passes for 1,425 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior in Woodruff High’s spread offense and drew interest from Tennessee, East Carolina, South Carolina and Clemson before gray-shirting with the Eagles last season.
Johnson was all alone on a post route before hauling in McKinnon’s strike.
“It’s been a long time since I did that,” Johnson said. “I feel like I fit into the offense better. I’m getting use to it now, and I can have fun instead of thinking all the time.”
Defensively, lineman Dion DuBose returned to action after missing about 1½ years with a knee injury. DuBose, a defensive end, led the White team with eight tackles, including a sack.
DuBose led the Eagles with 85 tackles as a linebacker in 2009 before moving to defensive end in 2010.
“I still think I have a lot to work on,” said DuBose, whose celebration penalty after a tackle for loss drew the ire of Monken.
But Monken liked most of what he saw from the senior from Norcross.
“I was really proud of his effort and I think the defensive line coaches were glad to have him in the (meeting) room and playing again,” Monken said. “I think he did a good job with leadership.”
The 2011 Eagles seniors received their Southern Conference championship rings during a pregame ceremony. The underclassmen received their rings in the locker room after the game…. Slotback Robert Brown (back), linebackers Carlos Cave (knee) and Darius Eubanks (hip), offensive linemen Trevor McBurnett (ankle) and Blake DeBartola (ankle) and fullback Swope (hamstring) did not play Saturday.
Blue 3 0 13 0 — 16
White 0 6 0 0 — 6
B—Kyle Morris 19 FG
W—Seon Jones 36 run (kick blocked)
B—Jerick McKinnon 20 run (kick blocked)
B—B.J. Johnson 75 pass from McKinnon (Morris kick)
First downs 14 14
Rushing 171 230
Passing 101 83
Comp.-Att.-Int. 3-7-0 4-12-0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1
Punting 4-44.0 3-42.3
Penalties 2-11 4-40
Rushing –B, Jerick McKinnon 14-83, Darreion Robinson 9-54, William Banks 9-32, Devin Scott 4-15, Brian Wilcher 1-8, Team 1-(-1), Russell DeMasi 1-(-5), Johnathan Bryant 2-(-15); W, Seon Jones 20-95, Tray Butler 5-64, Ezayi Youyoute 15-63, Prince McJunkins 3-4, J.J. Wilcox 1-4.
Passing – B, McKinnon 1-3-0 75 yards, 1 TD, DeMasi 2-4-0 26 yards; W, Youyoute 3-11-0 41 yards, McJunkins 1-1-0 42 yards.
Receiving – B, B.J. Johnson 2-89 1 TD, Zach Walker 1-12; W, Kentrellis Showers 2-51, DeVonte Lewis 1-26, Butler 1-6.
By Donald Heath, Savannah Morning News