The event started off with the players stretching and breaking up for drills by position before beginning a scrimmage with actual game officials.
The scrimmage lasted a little over an hour, giving second-year Panthers coach Trent Miles information he’ll need to evaluate his players heading into the fall.
“I’ll have to see the film first to really get an idea of how these guys did,” Miles said. “Overall, I saw some good things and some bad things. I was disappointed in the illegal-procedure penalties and other mental errors that I know we need to get better at.
“I think the team has improved since Day 1, but I don’t know by how much until I’ve seen the film. The offense was able to move the ball, and we ran it pretty well. Early on, the defense was able to shut down the run, and they really flew to the ball, but the video will really tell what we need to work on. It’s spring. We just want to give some early reps to the 1s and 2s and just try to stay injury-free and see everyone on tape.”
Miles was excited to bring a portion of his Georgia State’s spring practice to McEachern, as the Panthers look forward to getting their first win under the coach. The Panthers State went 0-12 last season, with a 0-7 record in its first season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.
“This place is great,” Miles said of Cantrell Stadium. “This stadium is wonderful. It’s a wonderful facility and I’m thankful that they let us come out here, and it was great to see the people come out and support us.”
Next week, Miles will take his team to Lanier High School in Gwinnett County, as he continues to make the team more visible to its fan base.
“I wanted to take the team out to the community,” Miles said. “I have a great relationship with the coach (at McEachern), and it’s an opportunity to get away from downtown and allow the fan base and potential recruits to come see us. It helps grow the program and makes it a little easier for fans to come see us instead of having to drive into the city. Plus, the kids in the program get to experience something a little different from what they’re used to.”
Georgia State’s spring roster includes several Cobb County players.
Robert Dowling, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound rising sophomore, graduated from Lassiter, where the played three years after transferring from South Cobb. He spent his first season with at Georgia State playing special teams, but he saw limited action on defense as well.
Dowling played with the first-team defense during Saturday’s scrimmage, displaying good coverage skills while breaking up a few passes and making some tackles.
“It feels good to be playing with the first team, but I know I have to keep grinding if I want to stay with them,” Dowling said. “I played mostly special teams this past season, so it was good to get out and help the team. I’ve worked hard and now I have an opportunity to start this fall.”
Dowling’s last visit to Cantrell Stadium was a memorable one as Lassiter defeated Hillgrove 37-29 in a neutral-site game in 2012.
“I had a pick-six in that game,” he said, “so I have really good memories on this field.”
Quarterback Clay Chastain also has ties to the area, having spent his 2011 senior season as the starter at Harrison. He then spent a season on the junior college level at Georgia Military before joining Georgia State’s roster as part of Miles’ first recruiting class.
The 6-4, 215-pound Chastain struggled during his repetitions as the second-string quarterback. His unit didn’t move the ball well at times, and there were some dropped and overthrown passes. Chastain was also yelled at for not setting his feet before a pass, and he threw the scrimmage’s lone interception.
“It’s a mental thing with Clay,” Miles said. “He’s picking up some new things and playing with some new guys. When you don’t have everybody in there, and they don’t know what they’re doing, that doesn’t help things.”
Despite the miscues, Chastain did manage a successful bootleg run around the right side for a 10-yard gain.
When asked about his return to Cantrell Stadium, Cantrell didn’t mince words.
“I hated coming back here,” he quipped, likely thinking back to his time at Harrison playing against McEachern. “We got off to a slow start, but I do feel like we moved the ball well as the scrimmage went on. The second team had some energy.”