• 73°

Season goes on for Georgia State

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

The show is going on for the Georgia State Panthers.

While a handful of college-football conferences across the country have canceled the season, the Sun Belt Conference is committed to playing games this fall.

That means a handful of local players with local ties on the Georgia State roster will be able to play this season.

Among that group are two former Troup Tigers, Jamari Thrash and Luke Purnell, along with Callaway High graduates Jacob Freeman, Hunter Williamson and Courtney Williams.

While Trash, Williams and Williams have all been in the program for at least one season, Freeman and Purnell are freshmen.

Georgia State’s first two games against Murray State and Alabama were canceled, so its new season opener is at home against conference foe Louisiana on Sept. 19.

Among the local players returning to Georgia State is Williamson, who will be a red-shirt freshman.

Williamson was a standout place kicker and punter at Callaway, and at Georgia State he’s focused on trying to win the starting punter’s job.

Last year’s punter, Brandon Wright, is a rookie in the NFL and hoping to earn a spot on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ roster.

“I still kick, but I’m hoping that with Brandon going pro, I can earn the starting punter spot this year,” Williamson said. “That’s my chance, and I’m trying to focus on that.”

Like Williamson, Thrash is a red-shirt freshman who played in three games last season and had two catches for 17 yards.

Because of his limited playing time last season Thrash didn’t have to use a year of eligibility, so he’ll be a redshirt freshman this fall.

Thrash was an all-state receiver at Troup who helped the team reached the state semifinals during his senior season in 2018.

Thrash called his freshman year “a learning experience,” and he’s hoping it will help him be a more productive player this season.

“It brought me to earth a little bit,” Thrash added. “When I committed, I thought I was going to go up there and play, and I wanted to, but I red-shirted it showed me that there’s more to it (in college). You have to study the plays a lot more. You have to read the defenses, and film study, you have to take that a lot more seriously. I just look at my red-shirt year as a learning year. It’s a learning process.”

The veteran of the local contingent is Courtney Williams, a red-shirt sophomore who is competing for a starting spot at safety.

After playing in three games in 2018 before he was red-shirted, Williams appeared in 10 games last season while making 14 tackles.

The newcomers to Georgia State are Freeman and Purnell, who were both key parts of their high-school teams.

Freeman was a quarterback and wide receiver during his time at Callaway, and as a senior he had more than 30 catches with 12 touchdowns while helping lead the team to a second consecutive appearance in the state semifinals.

“I’m going in there with confidence, but not cockiness,” Freeman said. “I’m going in there knowing I have a chance to do something special, a chance to make a difference in the program. Also, I’m not going there expecting anything. You have to work your way up the ladder.”

Purnell was a tight end at Troup, and he chose Georgia State over a handful of other schools in part because of how close to home it is.

“I didn’t want to be eight hours from home,” Purnell said. “You look at Georgia State, and that’s somewhere a lot of people want to be.”

All of Georgia State’s players will have plenty of time to prepare for the opener since the season has been delayed two weeks.

One of the key positions Georgia State is focusing on is quarterback where someone new will be starting this year.

“It gives us more time to see all our players,” said Georgia State head coach Sean Elliott. “And we’ll get more reps at that quarterback spot, maneuvering the offense and putting us in good shape. It benefits our whole football team.”