Philadelphia, PA – 2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: The Georgia State football program has been in existence for just three seasons, but since its inaugural campaign in 2010, its record has gone down every year, culminating in a 1-10 mark in 2012 as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association at the FCS level.
The Panthers' only win a season ago came in an Oct. 13 road matchup with Rhode Island, where they trounced the Rams in a 41-7 final.
Bill Curry, who was crucial in helping build the football program, retired from head coaching following the 2012 season. Former Indiana State head coach Trent Miles was named Curry's successor for Georgia State's first season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference. The program's transition to the FBS will be complete in 2014 when it becomes eligible for postseason play.
OFFENSE: Helping Georgia State in what is sure to be a difficult transitional season will be an offense that returns nine starters from a season ago, but the unit averaged just 17.4 ppg and less than 314 ypg in 2012.
Ben McLane spent most of last season under center and will return as the team's starting quarterback, although he surely hopes to improve upon a lackluster freshman season (.507 completion percentage, 1,592 yards, 10 TDs, 11 interceptions).
The good news for McLane is that he will have his top receiver back in Albert Wilson, who caught a modest 48 balls a season ago, but showed outstanding big- play ability with 947 yards (19.7 ypc) and seven touchdowns. Danny Williams (20 rec, 227 yards, TD) will try to expand his role starting opposite Wilson.
At running back, Gerald Howse and Travis Evans will compete for touches. Howse is a junior college transfer who rushed for 652 yards and 10 touchdowns at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M last season, and Evans was the Panthers' second- leading rusher with 323 yards.
Although the offensive line struggled last year, hope for better production is high with all five starters returning.
DEFENSE: While the offense struggled to get anything going in 2012, the defense did very little to help matters by allowing 38.5 ppg and 470.1 ypg, and without a major adjustment, those numbers could be even worse this season against stiffer competition.
The silver lining for the defense is that its top three tacklers are all back. Linebacker Joseph Peterson (65 tackles, two FF) will continue to be the quarterback of the unit, while Theo Agnew (60 tackles, eight TFL) and Terrance Woodard (59 tackles, FR) bring experience to the front line.
GSU did very little in terms of attacking the quarterback a year ago, forcing only 10 sacks in 11 games, although it did manage to generate 14 turnovers (10 picks, four FR)
SPECIAL TEAMS: Will Lutz will take over full-time place-kicking duties after converting 4-of-7 field goal attempts and 18-of-18 PATs as a true freshman last year. Punter Matt Hubbard (43.1 yard average, 12 punts inside the 20) is well-established is considered by many to be an NFL prospect.
Wilson was the primary return man a season ago and his dynamic playmaking ability translated well to special teams, averaging 25.9 yards per kickoff return, including a 100-yard touchdown against Old Dominion.
OUTLOOK: If you're looking for a precedent GSU has to live up to, look no further than South Alabama last year, which graduated from the FCS ranks only to struggle in its first season in the Sun Belt (2-11, 1-7). Considering the Panthers' poor play a year ago, a similar if not worse season is in store for them here in 2013, but Miles will reserve judgement until his team hits the field.
"Coming into the new conference, we have to learn what everybody does," Miles said. "You can see them on film all you want, but actually going to these places and lining up against these teams on the field is the only thing that will help us understand the level of competition."
"Our expectation for our football team is to go out and compete at a high level for every game we play," he continued. "We want to win and we expect to win, but this is a program that has only been playing football for three years. This is a process and it's going to take some time. Our young men are going to go out and play hard every game with the expectation of winning."
It's a good thing Miles has tempered expectations, because while the football program has made incredible strides from not even existing just a handful of years ago, the Panthers can expect plenty of growing pains in 2013 as they bring up the rear in the Sun Belt standings.