The Georgia State Panthers’ hosted their 2021 Blue-White Spring Game at Center Parc Stadium on Friday night to give fans a glimpse of the team before Fall. Head Coach Shawn Elliott switched things up this year with a traditional scoring matchup versus an offense-vs-defense scrimmage. The white team won the game 23-17 and was led by veteran offensive lineman Dontae Wilson and Shamarious Gilmore. The blue team was captained by tight end Roger Carter and defensive end Hardrick Willis. With the spring game now behind them, the Panthers are full steam ahead to build on last year’s success.
The Panthers ended last season with a 6-4 record, securing back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in program history. The team topped it off in the postseason with a 39-2 victory over Western Kentucky University in the 2020 LendingTree Bowl. This win increased the program’s overall bowl record to 2-2. Georgia State plans to build on this momentum heading into the 2021 season as they return a slew of veterans to the field.
Nine Panthers took advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA during the pandemic and will hit the field once more. A total of 22 of last year’s 24 starters will return to suit up this upcoming season, including 12 All-Sun Belt Conference players. Headlining the Panthers once again will be LendingTree Bowl Most Valuable Player quarterback Cornelious Brown IV. The redshirt sophomore will be entering his second season as the starting quarterback after throwing for 2,278 yards and 17 touchdowns last Fall. Brown also added value on the ground as he rushed for 468 yards and seven scores.
Brown didn’t carry the team alone as he was surrounded by several returning stars in the Panthers wide receiver core. The pass-catching trio of Sam Pinckney, Cornelius McCoy, and Terrance Dixon combined for 1,547 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Senior running back Destin Coates tallied 769 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground and became the third-leading rusher in program history. This explosive offense was all held together by their veteran lineman that is anchored by first-team selection left guard Shamarious Gilmore. The balanced offensive unit gelled beautifully and averaged 194 yards rushing and 230 yards passing per game last season. The group also posted a school-record average of 33.2 points per game and will be looking to improve even more this Fall.
“It starts up front with the offensive line. Those guys have played together a long time and have good chemistry with each other,” Georgia State Offensive Coordinator Brad Glenn stated. “And the weapons. We’re deep at every position. There’s a new wideout who steps up every day and makes a play out there. That’s fun to have, and it makes the quarterback’s job easier.”
State’s defense is also lucky to return nine starters from a unit that ranked no. 7 in the FBS after tallying a program-record 35 sacks last season. New to the Panthers’ defense is transfer linebacker Shamar McCollum and incoming freshman lineman Tylon Dunlap. McCollum is a rising junior transferring from Wake Forest University and Georgia State Head Coach Shawn Elliott is looking for him to be an instant contributor.
“We’re going to see just exactly where he does fit. He will start out at the rush outside linebacker,” Elliott said, “He is a bigger guy, a stronger, more powerful guy. He can probably come down and play some inside stuff and really help us in the run game.“
Other additions to note are the University of Central Florida transfer Ja’Cyais Credle and Furman transfer Darren Grainger. Credle is a rising sophomore who will instantly compete for minutes in the already loaded Panther wide receiver room.
“If I was going to say there is going to be a battle among battles, I think it’s the wide receiver room,” Elliott said. “I call them “cats” and I think we have some cats who can go out there and play. That’s a big-time battle for playing time.”
Grainger is a redshirt junior quarterback who will be competing to take some snaps away from Brown. Grainger threw for 1,222 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Paladins in 2019. The biggest thing to note is that Grainger only threw three interceptions to Brown’s 10 last year. It will definitely be some healthy competition in the QB room heading into Fall.
“He’s [Grainger] a playmaker who could be in there and run with our first group,” Elliott explained. “And of course, [Brown] is doing what [Brown] does. I’m anxious as we scrimmage a little bit more to see how they perform.”