Is Georgia Southern’s patience justified?

Are fans being too tough on Tom Kleinlein?

The mercury is rising on Tyson Summers’ seat, even after the Eagles looked like a semi-competent football team on Wednesday night vs. Arkansas State.

Lord knows I am not a fan of the current situation. Tyson Summers was a good, young up-and-coming defensive coordinator, sure. His trajectory was on the way up. He’s a decent recruiter with south Georgia roots. You could talk your way into accepting the move, even if you had doubts back then.

But now? Now, there’s no way I’m dying on that hill. Type of offense matters less to me than how we play. Georgia Southern football traditionally is smash-mouth and aggressive. Triple option football predicates jumping out to a lead early and pounding opposing teams into submission. If the defense can just create a few 1st half turnovers, a well oiled triple option offense can wear down even the mightiest of foes. 

Despite the fact that he’s starting a redshirt freshman QB.

Despite the fact that Georgia Southern did not play its first home game until October 4th.

Despite the fact that this is among the youngest rosters in the country.

He still took a 2016 roster full of experience, coming off back to back nine win campaigns, and went 5-7. He was lucky to survive that, saved by throwing his coaching staff under the bus. Perhaps by quasi-legal methods.

Tyson Summers

For better or worse, Tyson Summers fell in love with Shai Werts. Werts is probably the most talented QB on the team. Summers put all his chips on Shai Werts. I would like to point out that we had the following options at QB, other than Shai Werts, since Signing Day in February.

Kado Brown
LaBaron Anthony
Monteo Garrett
Hampton McConnell
Seth Shuman
Jaalon Frazier

Not world beaters by any stretch of the imagination but an ample collection of 2-3 star talent, with varying skill sets. Anyone of those guys, if placed under the tutoring of say Willie Fritz or Jeff Monken, could have been a good starting Georgia Southern QB. Hindsight is 20/20.

Brown and Anthony are riding the pine behind Werts at the moment. We have yet to see what they can do.

Garrett has five carries for 117 yards this season yet doesn’t get the ball more for some unknown reason. His blazing speed could have been useful at QB or at least the Wildcat. He needs to get the ball more, period.

McConnell announced he was transferring last week. After a move to WR last year, and a shoulder injury in preseason.

Shuman left to commit to baseball. 

Frazier is redshirting; he might be the best of the bunch. 

The point is Tyson Summers made an already thin position, thinner, unnecessarily in my opinion. Player development is lacking as well.

JJ Wilcox, Jerick McKinnon, and Matt Breida were developed into NFL players during their time here. 5-11 in our last 16 games speaks for itself. Even a turnaround now is akin to pulling out of an absolute tailspin. To go from 18-8 to 5-11 has been breathtaking, and not in a good way.

The heat on Summers is justified. Do not engage in personal attacks against his family. You do that and you’re a loser. But wins-and-losses juxtaposed with what Tyson Summers inherited makes it seem worse.

He is not making sufficient progress fast enough. Georgia Southern is near the bottom in the country in both offense and defense. Morale is at an all-time low. The offense is incoherent. The defense shows flashes of brilliance but only flashes. It has a habit of giving up big plays through the air.

Verdict: Losses at homecoming to NMSU, at App State, or at home vs. Georgia State are dates to circle on your calendar for a move to be made.

When you are on Dan Wolken’s misery index it’s a bad look:

Georgia Southern: There are only two pastimes at Georgia Southern. The first is appreciating the triple-option offense. The second is running coaches out of town who don’t use the triple option, or use it badly. Tyson Summers didn’t run it last season, and is running it badly this year. Georgia Southern is 0-4 after a 43-25 loss to Arkansas State, and while there’s theoretically still time to turn it around, don’t count on it happening.

 

Tom Kleinlein

Everybody goes through a firing at least once in their life; Lord knows I have. They are not pretty affairs. Sometimes all it takes is just one mistake, one giant mistake. I would hate that sort of job insecurity. Tom Kleinlein on balance has been a good athletic director, who made one colossal mistake. He hired Tyson Summers.

I do not mean to be harsh. Let me break it down.

Georgia Southern’s identity is wrapped up in its football program for all intents and purposes. I love our logistics department, and or nursing and chemistry program, and the award-winning Model UN program that I was a member of for three years (nerd alert). But it is football that drives the bus. It is the school’s front porch.

Just take a look at the school’s traditions website and see for yourself how many traditions are tied up with something Erk Russell created out of thin-air.

So when the front-porch goes into disrepair, it becomes more than just a football issue, it starts becoming an economic issue. Fans get angry fast when you start messing with their weekend plans in the fall.

Not only that, passing on Dell McGee, Willie Fritz’s handpicked successor is looking worse and worse by the day. McGee snagged the nations #1 QB Justin Fields and got him to decommit to Penn State and commit to UGA. Fields had nothing but positive things to say about McGee.

“He’s the best recruiter in the country.” Said Fields

When you are a G5 program, you don’t typically fire a coach after one bad year. Especially with the limited budget Georgia Southern had at the time. $18 million in 2015 vs. $30 million in 2017.

Tom Kleinlein pros:

Hired Mark Byington, 69-60 as GS head men’s basketball coach. Including going 22-9 in 2014-15 and falling 2 points shy of beating the RJ Hunter lead Georgia State Panthers in the SBC title game.

Hired Willie Fritz, 17-8 in his two years here. Including the GoDaddy Bowl victory he won 9 games back-to-back. Already turning Tulane around.

Kept Rodney Hennon, baseball program keeps humming along.

Hosted the 2017 Sun Belt Baseball Tournament at J.I. Clements Stadium. Kleinlein oversaw impressive upgrades to JI Clements stadium

Hired Kip Drown for Women’s Basketball. The team went 9-9 in conference last year, up from 4-16 in the SBC in ’15-16.

Hired John Murphy for Men’s Soccer. He’s a flat out good coach that comes from the Ed Kelly-Boston College coaching tree. Had the Eagles ranked #10 in their region before losing to rivals Georgia State 3-1 on Saturday night.

APR and GPA issues are non-existent. Eagles are making grades.

Financially he’s growing the budget at an impressive clip, consolidation or not.

Case against:

David Dean and Rance Gillespie lawsuit. The athletic foundation and the school’s Board of Regents failing to sign Dean and Gillespie’s contracts sounds shady, but we’ll let the legal process play out before commenting further.

Hiring Tyson Summers over Dell McGee, Brian Bohannon, Mike Houston, John Grass, Brent Thompson, Doug Ruse (Kevin Ellison recently called Ruse his favorite coach ever, tossing his name back in the ring) – you get the picture.

Not extending Willie Fritz soon enough – An extension should have been on his desk the second Georgia Southern beat ULM for the 2014 Sun Belt title. He RAN THE TABLE HIS FIRST YEAR IN FBS.

In today’s college football world that is worth a contract extension, period. Does he want 6-years? Give him 7. Frontload the buyout if you have to. Pack it full of incentives if you have to, do what you have to to keep Willie. Stave off the Tulane’s (or Army in the case of Jeff Monken) of the world for another season at least.

Worsening reputation – This might be the worst of all, yet hardest to quantify. If you read between the lines of several Paul Johnson quotes recently, you get a whiff of hostility towards Tom Kleinlein. Perhaps it had to do with Kleinlein’s decision to not offer Bryan Cook the 2nd year during contract negotiations in 2015, then moonwalked and offered him the two-year deal a year later.

Paul Johnson, along with Erk Russell, Tracy Ham, Adrian Peterson, makes up the Mt. Rushmore of Georgia Southern football. Whatever, PJ says, even to this day, is regarded as canon among certain factions of the Eagle faithful. I have heard his name tossed out as a possible future athletic director whenever he gets tired of coaching, Barry Alvarez style. Eagles fans tend to trust only those with pure Eagle bloodlines.

I don’t buy that as much as some people do. Cook eventually came to work for Tom Kleinlein. Money talks more than personal relationships to some people. No basis, in fact, says KSU’s Brian Bohannon takes marching orders from Paul to this day, years after he stopped coaching for him. If Georgia Southern offers to double or triple his current salary, then that will be hard to turn down.

Verdict: One crisis at the time. Tom Kleinlein gets a chance from me to fix his mistake. Jeremy Foley, the former athletic director at Florida, hired great successes such as Urban Meyer and Billy Donovan; and great failures like Ron Zook and Will Muschamp. The key is recognizing the mistake and rectifying it, fast.

President Jaimie Hebert

To defend Dr. Hebert, he has been preoccupied with fusing two colleges together, fifty miles apart from one another. It is not an easy task fusing a 20,000 student institution with an 8,000 student institution into one coherent school. Hard decisions had to be made:

Martha Abell, Ph.D., dean of the GS College of Science and Mathematics, applied for the dean’s position at the college of the same name in the post-merger university. But Delana Gajdosik-Nivens, Ph.D., dean of Armstrong State’s College of Science and Technology, was chosen instead.

“I would have preferred to be selected, but I certainly will be as supportive as I can in the new university,” Abell said when phoned the first week of September.

On top of that Georgia Southern is starting construction on a whole new section of campus in between Lanier Rd and Akins Blvd along the 301 bypass called South Campus.

Georgia Southern is bursting at the seams and is growing faster than Tyson Summers’ sweater vest collection. Dr. Hebert is relatively new to Georgia Southern’s culture. He is taking a patient approach while Georgia Southern’s fans rage starts to boil over. Just read for yourself:

“The things that I described earlier. Increased GPAs, increase APR, much better standing fiscally. Those were the major objectives I gave Tom Kleinlein when I first became president here. The Athletic department, not just Tom, but everyone that works with him, really did well to hit those objectives,” Hebert said. “Those things, solid academics, solid finances are the critical foundations to build a program that can be successful long term. This administration has done a fine job building that foundation.”

“It’s early in the season. It’s very early in the season. [Wednesday] we begin conference play and I’m confident in our student-athletes,” Hebert said.

“I won’t discuss personnel matters,” Hebert said.

Verdict: It is way too early to get on Dr. Hebert for anything. He just got here. Do not underestimate the gigantic undertaking that the consolidation is and will be. South Campus is a huge undertaking as well. Sure, he should be expected to talk and chew gum at the same time. But I am giving the man the benefit of the doubt for now.

Eagles fans might have to wait a while still…

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About Nick Burgess 57 Articles

M.A. in Teaching, University of West Georgia,
B.A. in Political Science, Georgia Southern University,
Triple Option fundamentalist

1 Comment

  1. Dell McGee, hahaha, no Tom Kleinlein missed out by not hiring Navy’s offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper, who coached under Paul Johnson at Navy and at Georgia Southern. And Navy is jump humming along running the traditional Georgia Southern flexbone option.

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